Plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs) are innate immune cells that are specialized to produce IFN-α and to activate adaptive immune responses. Although IFN-α inhibits HIV-1 replication in vitro, the production of IFN-α by HIV-activated pDCs in vivo may contribute more to HIV pathogenesis than to protection. We have now shown that HIV-stimulated human pDCs allow for persistent IFN-α production upon repeated stimulation, express low levels of maturation molecules, and stimulate weak T cell responses. Persistent IFN-α production by HIV-stimulated pDCs correlated with increased levels of IRF7 and was dependent upon the autocrine IFN-α/β receptor feedback loop. Because it has been shown that early endosomal trafficking of TLR9 agonists causes strong activation of the IFN-α pathway but weak activation of the NF-κB pathway, we sought to investigate whether early endosomal trafficking of HIV, a TLR7 agonist, leads to the IFN-α–producing phenotype we observed. We demonstrated that HIV preferentially traffics to the early endosome in human pDCs and therefore skews pDCs toward a partially matured, persistently IFN-α–secreting phenotype.
Meagan O’Brien, Olivier Manches, Rachel Lubong Sabado, Sonia Jimenez Baranda, Yaming Wang, Isabelle Marie, Linda Rolnitzky, Martin Markowitz, David M. Margolis, David Levy, Nina Bhardwaj
Statistical analysis of microscopy data