Incomplete Suppression of HIV-1 by SAMHD1 Permits Efficient Macrophage Infection

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Timothy Plitnik
Mark E. Sharkey
Bijan Mahboubi
Baek Kim
Mario Stevenson


Background: Sterile alpha motif and histidine/aspartic acid domain-containing protein (SAMHD1) is a dNTP triphosphorylase that reduces cellular dNTP levels in non-dividing cells, such as macrophages. Since dNTPs are required for reverse transcription, HIV-2 and most SIVs encode a Vpx protein that promotes proteasomal degradation of SAMHD1. It is unclear how HIV-1, which does not appear to harbor a SAMHD1 escape mechanism, is able to infect macrophages in the face of SAMHD1 restriction.

Methods: To assess whether HIV-1 had a mechanism to negate SAMHD1 activity, we compared SAMHD1 and dNTP levels in macrophages infected by HIV-1 and SIV. We examined whether macrophages infected by HIV-1 still harbored antiviral levels of SAMHD1 by assessing their susceptibility to superinfection by vpx-deleted SIV. Finally, to assess whether HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) has adapted to a low dNTP environment, we evaluated SAMHD1 sensitivity of chimeric HIV-1 and SIV variants in which the RT regions were functionally exchanged.

Results: Here, we demonstrate that HIV-1 efficiently infects macrophages without modulating SAMHD1 activity or cellular dNTP levels, and that macrophages permissive to HIV-1 infection remained refractory to superinfection by vpx-deleted SIV. Furthermore, through the use of chimeric HIV/SIV, we demonstrate that the differential sensitivity of HIV-1 and SIV to SAMHD1 restriction is not dictated by RT.

Conclusions: Our study reveals fundamental differences between HIV-1 and SIV in the strategy used to evade restriction by SAMHD1 and suggests a degree of resistance of HIV-1 to the antiviral environment created by SAMHD1. Understanding how these cellular restrictions antagonize viral replication will be important for the design of novel antiviral strategies.

Keywords: HIV-1/ macrophages/ SAMHD1


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Author Biography

Timothy Plitnik, University of Miami

Dept. of Microbiology & Immunology


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