Multiply-exposed uninfected IV opioid drug users (EU-IVDU) remaining HIV sero-negative are one of very few clinical cohorts where live HIV exposure can be studied in conjunction with epidemiological teams that are studying risk of infection in these subjects. The described seronegative state of subjects known to be at risk of infection via shared needle behavior with persons of unknown status has heightened interest in identifying the mechanism(s) of immune control that may provide resistance to infection in association with HIV exposure and drug use. NK cell activation, increased constitutive degranulation and increased lytic activity, have been proposed in EU-IVDU as a critical feature associated with protection, yet it remains unknown what specific NK membrane protein profiles and functional responses best defines or identifies an NK or DC cell activation program in EU-IVDU. The effects of drug use on NK or PDC activation programs, even in the absence of repeated HIV exposure, are also unknown. We propose to analyze three groups identified by lack of HIV infection (serongative) with different histories of IV opioid drug use. Three groups of 50 subjects each will be recruited for this study as follows: Group 1: EU-IVDU for >3 yrs, Group 2: Clean users (not needle sharing)-IVU users and Group 3: uninfected-non IVU users. For each of the drug user groups a 1:1 recruitment will take place between exclusive opioid users and opioid and non-injectable drug use in absence of dependence to the latter. For all groups, we will collect blood and characterize circulating immune cell subsets by flow cytometry while preparing PBMC and isolated NK cell subsets for analysis with and without an acute stimulation with Interferon-alpha. Interferon-alpha is chosen as a reference activation stimuli based for its role in activating NK lysis of HIV-infected targets as shown in preliminary data.
For Aim 1, we will complete an analysis defining the molecular phenotype of NK cells in the EU-IVDU by (1) measuring activation (i.e., CD69), regulatory (i.e., Np44, etc.), IFN-gamma/chemokine secretion, and STAT-1 signaling potential;(2) using proteomics-based methods to compare global and cell surface protein profiles on NK cells to identify key cellular pathways and cell surface receptors selectively associated with EU-IVDU (KIR3DL1, KIR3DS1). We anticipate to find unique differences in group 1 as compared to groups 2 and 3.
Aim 2 will analyze NK and DC-dependent NK activation potential in conjunction with protein expression of KIR associated with disease control or the Plasmacytoid DC secretome after TLR-7 stimulation (associated with HIV-dependent PDC-mediated NK activation). Constitutive circulating NK CD107a and in vitro activity of PDC and cytotoxic function of NK cells when co-cultured with autologous HIV-1 infected targets (with and without IFN-1 stimulation) will be done anticipating to show greater NK activation and lysis in Group 1 as compared to 2 or 3. Taken together, the proposed work will test the hypothesis that a defined NK and pDC activation phenotype mediates both soluble and direct antiviral function in EU-IVDU, thereby decreasing HIV-1 infection efficiency upon IV exposure.
The inter-relationship between HIV-1 infection and drug addiction is poorly understood. By using global unbiased proteomic and genomic discovery approaches, we expect to discover novel biomarkers and molecular mechanisms that will improve patient care by helping to guide clinical research and interventions of patients based on their HIV-1 and drug user status.
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