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Title: Investigating the role of a dynamic actin cytoskeleton and its regulators for HIV-1 entry in macrophages
Author: Baskaran, Darshan
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Macrophages are one of the three main human cell types infected by HIV-1. They are highly plastic cells requiring a dynamic actin cytoskeleton for their role in development, homeostasis, tissue repair and immunity. For HIV-1, disrupting actin in macrophages is detrimental in that it leads to a complete block of viral uptake and reduces reverse transcription but, significantly, not fusion. Rho GTPases (Rac1, RhoA and Cdc42) regulate many aspects of actin dynamics including those required for endocytosis. Using a pharmacological approach, it was shown that Rac1 along with Rho GTPase effectors Pak1 and N-WASP are important for productive HIV-1 entry in macrophages. However, pharmacological inhibitors aren’t available for many host factors and may have off-target effects. To overcome this, expression of dominant negative (DN) Rho GTPases was attempted in human stem cell-derived macrophages (esMDMs). While DN Rac1 expressing esMDMs were successfully generated, this was not possible for the other two. DN Rac1 expressing esMDMs, as expected, had less filamentous actin and reduced dextran uptake compared to control esMDMs. In contrast to the pharmacological studies, HIV-1 infection studies in Rac1 DN esMDMs revealed a significant increase in HIV-1 fusion, reverse transcription and nuclear import, which could be due to reduced filamentous actin leading to a slower rate of endocytosis thereby allowing more time for viral fusion within endocytic vesicles. Surprisingly, reduced HIV-1 gene expression was observed in Rac1 DN esMDMs. This was corroborated by transfection studies implicating Rho GTPases in LTR driven gene expression. To overcome the ineffectiveness of RhoA and Cdc42 DN constitutive gene expression in esMDMs, an inducible lentiviral gene expression system based on the use of a constitutive promoter and a FLEx switch mediating irreversible DNA inversions was generated. The novel FLEx vector was the first system shown to induce transgene expression in esMDMs albeit at a very low efficiency.
Supervisor: James, William; Moore, Michael Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Life Sciences ; Biology ; Cell Biology (see also Plant sciences) ; Genetics (life sciences) ; Microbiology ; Immunology ; Infectious diseases ; Viruses ; virology ; actin cytoskeleton ; GTPases ; ientiviral vectors ; gene-expression systems