Sub-Inhibitory Concentrations of Human α-defensin Potentiate Neutralizing Antibodies against HIV-1 gp41 Pre-Hairpin Intermediates in the Presence of Serum

Demirkhanyan, Lusine; Marin, Mariana; Lu, Wuyuan; Melikyan, Gregory B.
June 2013
PLoS Pathogens;Jun2013, Vol. 9 Issue 6, p1
Academic Journal
Human defensins are at the forefront of the host responses to HIV and other pathogens in mucosal tissues. However, their ability to inactivate HIV in the bloodstream has been questioned due to the antagonistic effect of serum. In this study, we have examined the effect of sub-inhibitory concentrations of human α-defensin HNP-1 on the kinetics of early steps of fusion between HIV-1 and target cells in the presence of serum. Direct measurements of HIV-cell fusion using an enzymatic assay revealed that, in spite of the modest effect on the extent of fusion, HNP-1 prolonged the exposure of functionally important transitional epitopes of HIV-1 gp41 on the cell surface. The increased lifetime of gp41 intermediates in the presence of defensin was caused by a delay in the post-coreceptor binding steps of HIV-1 entry that correlated with the marked enhancement of the virus' sensitivity to neutralizing anti-gp41 antibodies. By contrast, the activity of antibodies to gp120 was not affected. HNP-1 appeared to specifically potentiate antibodies and peptides targeting the first heptad repeat domain of gp41, while its effect on inhibitors and antibodies to other gp41 domains was less prominent. Sub-inhibitory concentrations of HNP-1 also promoted inhibition of HIV-1 entry into peripheral blood mononuclear cells by antibodies and, more importantly, by HIV-1 immune serum. Our findings demonstrate that: (i) sub-inhibitory doses of HNP-1 potently enhance the activity of a number of anti-gp41 antibodies and peptide inhibitors, apparently by prolonging the lifetime of gp41 intermediates; and (ii) the efficiency of HIV-1 fusion inhibitors and neutralizing antibodies is kinetically restricted. This study thus reveals an important role of α-defensin in enhancing adaptive immune responses to HIV-1 infection and suggests future strategies to augment these responses.


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