Defining the Effects of PKC Modulator HIV Latency-Reversing Agents on Natural Killer Cells

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Melanie Dimapasoc
Jose A. Moran
Steve W. Cole
Alok Ranjan
Rami Hourani
Jocelyn T. Kim
Paul A. Wender
Matthew D. Marsden
Jerome A. Zack


Background: Latency reversing agents (LRAs) such as protein kinase C (PKC) modulators can reduce rebound-competent HIV reservoirs in small animal models. Furthermore, administration of natural killer (NK) cells following LRA treatment improves this reservoir reduction. It is currently unknown why the combination of a PKC modulator and NK cells is so potent and whether exposure to PKC modulators may augment NK cell function in some way.

Methods: Primary human NK cells were treated with PKC modulators (bryostatin-1, prostratin, or the designed, synthetic bryostatin-1 analog SUW133), and evaluated by examining expression of activation markers by flow cytometry, analyzing transcriptomic profiles by RNA sequencing, measuring cytotoxicity by co-culturing with K562 cells, assessing cytokine production by Luminex assay, and examining the ability of cytokines and secreted factors to independently reverse HIV latency by co-culturing with Jurkat-Latency (J-Lat) cells.

Results: PKC modulators increased expression of proteins involved in NK cell activation. Transcriptomic profiles from PKC-treated NK cells displayed signatures of cellular activation and enrichment of genes associated with the NFκB pathway. NK cell cytotoxicity was unaffected by prostratin but significantly decreased by bryostatin-1 and SUW133. Cytokines from PKC-stimulated NK cells did not induce latency reversal in J-Lat cell lines. 

Conclusions: Although PKC modulators have some significant effects on NK cells, their contribution in “kick and kill” strategies is likely due to upregulating HIV expression in CD4+ T cells, not directly enhancing the effector functions of NK cells. This suggests that PKC modulators are primarily augmenting the “kick” rather than the “kill” arm of this HIV cure approach.


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