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Open Access Research article

MicroRNA regulation and its effects on cellular transcriptome in Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 (HIV-1) infected individuals with distinct viral load and CD4 cell counts

Karolina Duskova1, Pruthvi Nagilla1, Hai-Son Le2, Priyadarshini Iyer1, Anbupalam Thalamuthu3, Jeremy Martinson1, Ziv Bar-Joseph2, William Buchanan1, Charles Rinaldo1 and Velpandi Ayyavoo1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, 425 Parran Hall, 130 Desoto Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15261, USA

2 Department of Machine Learning, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

3 Human Genetics, Genome Institute of Singapore, 60 Biopolis Street 02-01, Singapore, Singapore

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2013, 13:250  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-250

Published: 30 May 2013



Disease progression in the absence of therapy varies significantly in HIV-1 infected individuals. Both viral and host cellular molecules are implicated; however, the exact role of these factors and/or the mechanism involved remains elusive. To understand how microRNAs (miRNAs), which are regulators of transcription and translation, influence host cellular gene expression (mRNA) during HIV-1 infection, we performed a comparative miRNA and mRNA microarray analysis using PBMCs obtained from infected individuals with distinct viral load and CD4 counts.


RNA isolated from PBMCs obtained from HIV-1 seronegative and HIV-1 positive individuals with distinct viral load and CD4 counts were assessed for miRNA and mRNA profile. Selected miRNA and mRNA transcripts were validated using in vivo and in vitro infection model.


Our results indicate that HIV-1 positive individuals with high viral load (HVL) showed a dysregulation of 191 miRNAs and 309 mRNA transcripts compared to the uninfected age and sex matched controls. The miRNAs miR-19b, 146a, 615-3p, 382, 34a, 144 and 155, that are known to target innate and inflammatory factors, were significantly upregulated in PBMCs with high viral load, as were the inflammatory molecules CXCL5, CCL2, IL6 and IL8, whereas defensin, CD4, ALDH1, and Neurogranin (NRGN) were significantly downregulated. Using the transcriptome profile and predicted target genes, we constructed the regulatory networks of miRNA-mRNA pairs that were differentially expressed between control, LVL and HVL subjects. The regulatory network revealed an inverse correlation of several miRNA-mRNA pair expression patterns, suggesting HIV-1 mediated transcriptional regulation is in part likely through miRNA regulation.


Results from our studies indicate that gene expression is significantly altered in PBMCs in response to virus replication. It is interesting to note that the infected individuals with low or undetectable viral load exhibit a gene expression profile very similar to control or uninfected subjects. Importantly, we identified several new mRNA targets (Defensin, Neurogranin, AIF) as well as the miRNAs that could be involved in regulating their expression through the miRNA-mRNA interaction.