anti-hiv-1, Human immunodeficiency virus, hiv


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has become a global pandemic over the past few decades, with new infections and related deaths in the millions each year. There is no cure in sight for HIV-1 infection, and there has been little progress in developing an efficacious vaccine. Heterosexual transmission of HIV-1 remains the principal mode of transmission throughout the world and thus measures, such as topical vaginal microbicides, to prevent infection of the female reproductive tract are actively being explored. Recent trials of topical vaginal microbicides have shown that their interaction with the mucosal surfaces of the female reproductive tract as well as semen can hinder microbicide effectiveness against HIV-1 infection. Therefore, understanding the role these fluids play in HIV transmission would be critical towards developing effective antiviral prophylaxes. A recent study from our group demonstrated that human cervicovaginal secretions contained numerous cationic antimicrobial peptides and proteins, which collectively inhibited HIV-1 infection of target cells and tissues. To ascertain if human seminal plasma (SP), the main vector responsible for transmitting HIV-1, exhibited antiviral activity we utilized several antiHIV assays in the presence or absence of minimally manipulated SP. The majority of the intrinsic anti-HIV-1 activity of SP resided in the cationic polypeptide fraction. Antiviral assays utilizing luciferase reporter cells and lymphocytic cells revealed the ability of whole SP to prevent HIV-1 infection, even when SP was diluted 3200-fold. Subsequent fractionation by continuous flow acid-urea (AU)-PAGE and antiviral testing revealed that cationic polypeptides within SP were responsible for the majority of anti-HIV-1 activity. A proteomic approach was utilized to resolve and identify 52 individual cationic polypeptides that contribute to the aggregate anti-HIV-1 activity of SP. One peptide fragment of semenogelin I, termed SG-1, was purified from SP by a multi-step chromatographic approach, protein sequenced, and determined to exhibit anti-HIV-1 activity against HIV-1. Anti-HIV-1 activity was transient, as whole SP incubated for prolonged time intervals exhibited a proportional decrease in anti-HIV-1 activity that was directly attributed to the degradation of semenogelin I peptides. Collectively, these results indicate that the cationic polypeptide fraction of SP is active against HIV-1, and that semenogelin-derived peptides contribute to the intrinsic anti-HIV-1 activity of SP. Conversely, naturally occurring peptidic fragments from the SP-derived prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) have been reported to form amyloid fibrils called "SEVI" capable of enhancing HIV-1 infection in vitro. In order to understand the biological consequence of this proviral effect, we extended these studies in the presence of human SP. PAP-derived peptides were agitated to form SEVI and incubated in the presence or absence of SP. While PAP-derived peptides and SEVI alone were proviral, the presence of 1% SP ablated their proviral activity in several different anti-HIV-1 assays. The anti-HIV-1 activity of SP was concentration dependent and was reduced following filtration. Supraphysiological concentrations of PAP peptides and SEVI incubated with diluted SP were degraded within hours, with SP exhibiting proteolytic activity at dilutions as high as 1:200. Sub-physiological concentrations of two prominent proteases of SP, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and matriptase, could degrade physiological and supraphysiological concentrations of PAP peptides and SEVI. While human SP is a complex biological fluid, containing both antiviral and proviral factors, our results suggest that PAP peptides and SEVI may be subject to naturally occurring proteolytic components capable of reducing their proviral activity. Our studies demonstrate the overall antiviral activity of human SP, but there is still a critical need for effective topical vaginal microbicides that can prevent HIV-1 transmission. The synthetic human retrocyclins are cyclic antimicrobial peptides that are remarkably active against HIV-1, and are being developed as topical vaginal microbicides. Herein, we assessed whether the putative proviral SEVI was able to adversely affect the anti-HIV-1 activity of the retrocyclin analog RC-101. While SEVI alone enhanced viral infection, this effect was completely negated in the presence of RC-101. Retrocyclins such as RC-101 are inhibitors of HIV-1 entry, by preventing gp41-mediated viral fusion. Interestingly, using an HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) specific assay, we also determined that RC-101 directly inhibited the activity of RT in a dose dependent manner, suggesting a secondary mechanism of viral inhibition. Our group has determined that RC-101 induces only a modest level of resistance in HIV, which may be due in part to RC-101's dual mechanisms of viral inhibition.


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Graduation Date





Cole, Alexander


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Burnett College of Biomedical Sciences

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Biomedical Sciences








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Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)