PloS one

HIV-1 subtype C unproductively infects human cardiomyocytes in vitro and induces apoptosis mitigated by an anti-Gp120 aptamer.

PMID 25329893


HIV-associated cardiomyopathy (HIVCM) is of clinical concern in developing countries because of a high HIV-1 prevalence, especially subtype C, and limited access to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). For these reasons, we investigated the direct and indirect effects of HIV-1 subtype C infection of cultured human cardiomyocytes and the mechanisms leading to cardiomyocytes damage; as well as a way to mitigate the damage. We evaluated a novel approach to mitigate HIVCM using a previously reported gp120 binding and HIV-1 neutralizing aptamer called UCLA1. We established a cell-based model of HIVCM by infecting human cardiomyocytes with cell-free HIV-1 or co-culturing human cardiomyocytes with HIV-infected monocyte derived macrophages (MDM). We discovered that HIV-1 subtype C unproductively (i.e. its life cycle is arrested after reverse transcription) infects cardiomyocytes. Furthermore, we found that HIV-1 initiates apoptosis of cardiomyocytes through caspase-9 activation, preferentially via the intrinsic or mitochondrial initiated pathway. CXCR4 receptor-using viruses were stronger inducers of apoptosis than CCR5 utilizing variants. Importantly, we discovered that HIV-1 induced apoptosis of cardiomyocytes was mitigated by UCLA1. However, UCLA1 had no protective effective on cardiomyocytes when apoptosis was triggered by HIV-infected MDM. When HIV-1 was treated with UCLA1 prior to infection of MDM, it failed to induce apoptosis of cardiomyocytes. These data suggest that HIV-1 causes a mitochondrial initiated apoptotic cascade, which signal through caspase-9, whereas HIV-1 infected MDM causes apoptosis predominantly via the death-receptor pathway, mediated by caspase-8. Furthermore the data suggest that UCLA1 protects cardiomyocytes from caspase-mediated apoptosis, directly by binding to HIV-1 and indirectly by preventing infection of MDM.