Background: Innate immune responses have recently been appreciated to play an important role in the pathogenesis of HIV infection. Whereas inadequate innate immune sensing of HIV during acute infection may contribute to failure to control and eradicate infection, persistent inflammatory responses later during infection contribute in driving chronic immune activation and development of immunodeficiency. However, knowledge on specific HIV PAMPs and cellular PRRs responsible for inducing innate immune responses remains sparse.
Methods/principal findings: Here we demonstrate a major role for RIG-I and the adaptor protein MAVS in induction of innate immune responses to HIV genomic RNA. We found that secondary structured HIV-derived RNAs induced a response similar to genomic RNA. In primary human peripheral blood mononuclear cells and primary human macrophages, HIV RNA induced expression of IFN-stimulated genes, whereas only low levels of type I IFN and tumor necrosis factor α were produced. Furthermore, secondary structured HIV-derived RNA activated pathways to NF-κB, MAP kinases, and IRF3 and co-localized with peroxisomes, suggesting a role for this organelle in RIG-I-mediated innate immune sensing of HIV RNA.
Conclusions/significance: These results establish RIG-I as an innate immune sensor of cytosolic HIV genomic RNA with secondary structure, thereby expanding current knowledge on HIV molecules capable of stimulating the innate immune system.