Background: Patients of African ancestry with untreated HIV-1 infection and carrying the G1 or G2 kidney disease risk variants (Vs) at the APOL1 gene have a tenfold higher risk of developing HIV-associated nephropathy (HIVAN) compared to those with the non-risk wild type (WT) G0 variant. However, the mechanistic contribution of the APOL1 allelic state to kidney injury in HIV-1 infection remains to be elucidated.
Results: Non-risk WT APOL1 is associated with lower intracellular levels of HIV-1 in conditionally immortalized human podocytes, while the over expression of G1 or G2 risk Vs significantly increases viral accumulation. The priming of podocytes with exogenous IL-1β facilitates HIV-1 entry, via the up-regulation of DC-SIGN. The over expression of APOL1 G1 and G2 risk Vs in combination with an increase in IL-1β levels causes a greater increase in viral concentration than either condition alone. In turn, HIV-1 and exogenous IL-1β together induce a de novo secretion of endogenous IL-1β and an increase of APOL1 gene expression.
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that the presence of risk Vs of APOL1 is permissive of HIV-1 persistence in human podocytes in synergy with IL-1β, a cytokine that characterizes the inflammatory milieu of acute and chronic phases of HIV-1 infection. The elucidation of these molecular mechanisms explains, at least in part, the higher frequency of HIVAN in populations carrying the risk polymorphic genetic variant of APOL1 gene.
Keywords: APOL1; DC-SIGN; HIV-1; HIVAN; IL-1β; Podocyte.