Unlike HIV infection, SIV infection is generally nonpathogenic in natural hosts, such as African green monkeys (AGMs), despite life-long high viral replication. Lack of disease progression was reportedly based on the ability of SIV-infected AGMs to prevent gut dysfunction, avoiding microbial translocation and the associated systemic immune activation and chronic inflammation. Yet, the maintenance of gut integrity has never been documented, and the mechanism(s) by which gut integrity is preserved are unknown. We sought to investigate the early events of SIV infection in AGMs, specifically examining the impact of SIVsab infection on the gut mucosa. Twenty-nine adult male AGMs were intrarectally infected with SIVsab92018 and serially sacrificed at well-defined stages of SIV infection, preramp-up (1-3 days post-infection (dpi)), ramp-up (4-6 dpi), peak viremia (9-12 dpi), and early chronic SIV infection (46-55 dpi), to assess the levels of immune activation, apoptosis, epithelial damage and microbial translocation in the GI tract and peripheral lymph nodes. Tissue viral loads, plasma cytokines and plasma markers of gut dysfunction were also measured throughout the course of early infection. While a strong, but transient, interferon-based inflammatory response was observed, the levels of plasma markers linked to enteropathy did not increase. Accordingly, no significant increases in apoptosis of either mucosal enterocytes or lymphocytes, and no damage to the mucosal epithelium were documented during early SIVsab infection of AGMs. These findings were supported by RNAseq of the gut tissue, which found no significant alterations in gene expression that would indicate microbial translocation. Thus, for the first time, we confirmed that gut epithelial integrity is preserved, with no evidence of microbial translocation, in AGMs throughout early SIVsab infection. This might protect AGMs from developing intestinal dysfunction and the subsequent chronic inflammation that drives both HIV disease progression and HIV-associated comorbidities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology