Cholesterol Metabolism in Immune Cells Linked to HIV Progression

Immune cells known as antigen-presenting cells (APCs) can take up HIV particles and deliver intact, infectious virus to its primary target--T cells--through a replication-independent process known as trans infection. Scientists found that APCs from nonprogressors--HIV-infected people whose disease does not progress for many years even without antiretroviral therapy--do not effectively trans infect T cells. A closer look revealed that this defect in trans infection is likely due to enhanced cholesterol metabolism within the nonprogressors' APCs, which appears to be an inherited trait.
To identify genetic factors linked to defective trans infection, scientists searched for patterns in gene expression, or the degree to which specific genes are turned on or off, in APCs from eight HIV nonprogressors and eight progressors enrolled in MACS. Compared to APCs from progressors, cells from nonprogressors expressed higher levels of several cholesterol-related genes associated with defective trans infection. 
These results improve understanding of how nonprogressors control HIV without drug therapy and potentially may contribute to new approaches to manage HIV infection.