HIV infection does not alter interferon α/β receptor 2 expression on mucosal immune cells

Ickler, Julia GND; Francois, Sandra GND; Widera, Marek GND; Santiago, Mario L. ORCID; Dittmer, Ulf GND; Sutter, Kathrin GND

The innate immune response induced by type I interferons (IFNs) plays a critical role in the establishment of HIV infection. IFNs are induced early in HIV infection and trigger an antiviral defense program by signaling through the IFNα/β receptor (IFNAR), which consists of two subunits, IFNAR1 and IFNAR2. Changes in IFNAR expression in HIV target cells, as well as other immune cells, could therefore have important consequences for initial HIV spread. It was previously reported that IFNAR2 expression is increased in peripheral blood CD4+ CXCR4+ T cells of HIV+ patients compared to HIV uninfected controls, suggesting that HIV infection may alter the IFN responsiveness of target cells. However, the earliest immune cells affected by HIV in vivo reside in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). To date, it remains unknown if IFNAR expression is altered in GALT immune cells in the context of HIV infection and exposure to IFNs, including the 12 IFNα subtypes. Here, we analyzed the expression of surface bound and soluble IFNAR2 on Lamina propria mononuclear cells (LPMCs) isolated from the GALT of HIV- individuals and in plasma samples of HIV+ patients. IFNAR2 expression varied between different T cells, B cells and natural killer cells, but was not altered following HIV infection. Furthermore, expression of the soluble IFNAR2a isoform was not changed in HIV+ patients compared to healthy donors, nor in LPMCs after HIV-1 infection ex vivo. Even though the 12 human IFNα subtypes trigger different biological responses and vary in their affinity to both receptor subunits, stimulation of LPMCs with different recombinant IFNα subtypes did not result in any significant changes in IFNAR2 surface expression. Our data suggests that potential changes in the IFN responsiveness of mucosal immune cells during HIV infection are unlikely dictated by changes in IFNAR2 expression.

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Ickler, Julia / Francois, Sandra / Widera, Marek / et al: HIV infection does not alter interferon α/β receptor 2 expression on mucosal immune cells. 2020.

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