Polyploidy and Mitotic Cell Death Are Two Distinct HIV-1 Vpr-Driven Outcomes in Renal Tubule Epithelial Cells

J Virol. 2018 Jan 2;92(2):e01718-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01718-17. Print 2018 Jan 15.


Prior studies have found that HIV, through the Vpr protein, promotes genome reduplication (polyploidy) in infection-surviving epithelial cells within renal tissue. However, the temporal progression and molecular regulation through which Vpr promotes polyploidy have remained unclear. Here we define a sequential progression to Vpr-mediated polyploidy in human renal tubule epithelial cells (RTECs). We found that as in many cell types, Vpr first initiates G2 cell cycle arrest in RTECs. We then identified a previously unreported cascade of Vpr-dependent events that lead to renal cell survival and polyploidy. Specifically, we found that a fraction of G2-arrested RTECs reenter the cell cycle. Following this cell cycle reentry, two distinct outcomes occur. Cells that enter complete mitosis undergo mitotic cell death due to extra centrosomes and aberrant division. Conversely, cells that abort mitosis undergo endoreplication to become polyploid. We further show that multiple small-molecule inhibitors of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-related kinase (PIKK) family, including those that target ATR, ATM, and mTOR, indirectly prevent Vpr-mediated polyploidy by preventing G2 arrest. In contrast, an inhibitor that targets DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) specifically blocks the Vpr-mediated transition from G2 arrest to polyploidy. These findings outline a temporal, molecularly regulated path to polyploidy in HIV-positive renal cells.IMPORTANCE Current cure-focused efforts in HIV research aim to elucidate the mechanisms of long-term persistence of HIV in compartments. The kidney is recognized as one such compartment, since viral DNA and mRNA persist in the renal tissues of HIV-positive patients. Further, renal disease is a long-term comorbidity in the setting of HIV. Thus, understanding the regulation and impact of HIV infection on renal cell biology will provide important insights into this unique HIV compartment. Our work identifies mechanisms that distinguish between HIV-positive cell survival and death in a known HIV compartment, as well as pharmacological agents that alter these outcomes.

Keywords: G2 arrest; HIV and kidney; HIV reservoir; PIKK family; Vpr; polyploidy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Death
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival
  • DNA-Activated Protein Kinase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Epithelial Cells / virology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • G2 Phase Cell Cycle Checkpoints
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Tubules / cytology
  • Kidney Tubules / virology
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mitosis*
  • Models, Biological
  • Polyploidy*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction
  • vpr Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / metabolism*


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • vpr Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • DNA-Activated Protein Kinase