Deficient uracil base excision repair leads to persistent dUMP in HIV proviruses during infection of monocytes and macrophages

Mesfin Meshesha, Alexandre Esadze, Junru Cui, Natela Churgulia, Sushil Kumar Sahu, James T. Stivers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Non-dividing cells of the myeloid lineage such as monocytes and macrophages are target cells of HIV that have low dNTP pool concentrations and elevated levels of dUTP, which leads to frequent incorporation of dUMP opposite to A during reverse transcription (“uracilation”). One factor determining the fate of dUMP in proviral DNA is the host cell uracil base excision repair (UBER) system. Here we explore the relative UBER capacity of monocytes (MC) and monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) and the fate of integrated uracilated viruses in both cell types to understand the implications of viral dUMP on HIV diversification and infectivity. We find that the kinetics for MC infection is compatible with their lifetime in vivo and their near absence of hUNG2 activity is consistent with the retention of viral dUMP at high levels at least until differentiation into macrophages, where UBER becomes possible. Overexpression of human uracil DNA glycosylase in MDM prior to infection resulted in rapid removal of dUMP from HIV cDNA and near complete depletion of dUMP-containing viral copies. This finding establishes that the low hUNG2 expression level in these cells limits UBER but that hUNG2 is restrictive against uracilated viruses. In contrast, overexpression of hUNG2 after viral integration did not accelerate the excision of uracils, suggesting that they may poorly accessible in the context of chromatin. We found that viral DNA molecules with incorporated dUMP contained unique (+) strand transversion mutations that were not observed when dUMP was absent (G!T, T!A, T!G, A!C). These observations and other considerations suggest that dUMP introduces errors predominantly during (-) strand synthesis when the template is RNA. Overall, the likelihood of producing a functional virus from in vitro infection of MC is about 50-fold and 300-fold reduced as compared to MDM and activated T cells. The results implicate viral dUMP incorporation in MC and MDM as a potential viral diversification and restriction pathway during human HIV infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0235012
JournalPloS one
Issue number7 July
StatePublished - Jul 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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