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      Investigation of Griffithsin's Interactions with Human Cells Confirms Its Outstanding Safety and Efficacy Profile as a Microbicide Candidate


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          Many natural product-derived lectins such as the red algal lectin griffithsin (GRFT) have potent in vitro activity against viruses that display dense clusters of oligomannose N-linked glycans (NLG) on their surface envelope glycoproteins. However, since oligomannose NLG are also found on some host proteins it is possible that treatment with antiviral lectins may trigger undesirable side effects. For other antiviral lectins such as concanavalin A, banana lectin and cyanovirin-N (CV-N), interactions between the lectin and as yet undescribed cellular moieties have been reported to induce undesirable side effects including secretion of inflammatory cytokines and activation of host T-cells. We show that GRFT, unlike CV-N, binds the surface of human epithelial and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) through an exclusively oligosaccharide-dependent interaction. In contrast to several other antiviral lectins however, GRFT treatment induces only minimal changes in secretion of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines by epithelial cells or human PBMC, has no measureable effect on cell viability and does not significantly upregulate markers of T-cell activation. In addition, GRFT appears to retain antiviral activity once bound to the surface of PBMC. Finally, RNA microarray studies show that, while CV-N and ConA regulate expression of a multitude of cellular genes, GRFT treatment effects only minimal alterations in the gene expression profile of a human ectocervical cell line. These studies indicate that GRFT has an outstanding safety profile with little evidence of induced toxicity, T-cell activation or deleterious immunological consequence, unique attributes for a natural product-derived lectin.

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          Most cited references 42

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          History of lectins: from hemagglutinins to biological recognition molecules.

          The occurrence in nature of erythrocyte-agglutinating proteins has been known since the turn of the 19th century. By the 1960s it became apparent that such proteins also agglutinate other types of cells, and that many of them are sugar-specific. These cell-agglutinating and sugar-specific proteins have been named lectins. Although shown to occur widely in plants and to some extent also in invertebrates, very few lectins had been isolated until the early 1970s, and they had attracted little attention. This attitude changed with the demonstration that lectins are extremely useful tools for the investigation of carbohydrates on cell surfaces, in particular of the changes that the latter undergo in malignancy, as well as for the isolation and characterization of glycoproteins. In subsequent years numerous lectins have been isolated from plants as well as from microorganisms and animals, and during the past two decades the structures of hundreds of them have been established. Concurrently, it was shown that lectins function as recognition molecules in cell-molecule and cell-cell interactions in a variety of biological systems. Here we present a brief account of 100-plus years of lectin research and show how these proteins have become the focus of intense interest for biologists and in particular for the glycobiologists among them.
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            Isolation and characterization of griffithsin, a novel HIV-inactivating protein, from the red alga Griffithsia sp.

            Griffithsin (GRFT), a novel anti-HIV protein, was isolated from an aqueous extract of the red alga Griffithsia sp. The 121-amino acid sequence of GRFT has been determined, and biologically active GRFT was subsequently produced by expression of a corresponding DNA sequence in Escherichia coli. Both native and recombinant GRFT displayed potent antiviral activity against laboratory strains and primary isolates of T- and M- tropic HIV-1 with EC50 values ranging from 0.043 to 0.63 nM. GRFT also aborted cell-to-cell fusion and transmission of HIV-1 infection at similar concentrations. High concentrations (e.g. 783 nM) of GRFT were not lethal to any tested host cell types. GRFT blocked CD4-dependent glycoprotein (gp) 120 binding to receptor-expressing cells and bound to viral coat glycoproteins (gp120, gp41, and gp160) in a glycosylation-dependent manner. GRFT preferentially inhibited gp120 binding of the monoclonal antibody (mAb) 2G12, which recognizes a carbohydrate-dependent motif, and the (mAb) 48d, which binds to CD4-induced epitope. In addition, GRFT moderately interfered with the binding of gp120 to sCD4. Further data showed that the binding of GRFT to soluble gp120 was inhibited by the monosaccharides glucose, mannose, and N-acetylglucosamine but not by galactose, xylose, fucose, N-acetylgalactosamine, or sialic acid-containing glycoproteins. Taken together these data suggest that GRFT is a new type of lectin that binds to various viral glycoproteins in a monosaccharide-dependent manner. GRFT could be a potential candidate microbicide to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV and AIDS.
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              Envelope glycans of immunodeficiency virions are almost entirely oligomannose antigens.

              The envelope spike of HIV is one of the most highly N-glycosylated structures found in nature. However, despite extensive research revealing essential functional roles in infection and immune evasion, the chemical structures of the glycans on the native viral envelope glycoprotein gp120--as opposed to recombinantly generated gp120--have not been described. Here, we report on the identity of the N-linked glycans from primary isolates of HIV-1 (clades A, B, and C) and from the simian immunodeficiency virus. MS analysis reveals a remarkably simple and highly conserved virus-specific glycan profile almost entirely devoid of medial Golgi-mediated processing. In stark contrast to recombinant gp120, which shows extensive exposure to cellular glycosylation enzymes (>70% complex type glycans), the native envelope shows barely detectable processing beyond the biosynthetic intermediate Man5GlcNAc2 ( 2Man-terminating glycans (Man6-9GlcNAc2) of the type recognized by the broadly neutralizing anti-HIV antibody 2G12 are 3-fold more abundant on the native envelope than on the recombinant monomer and are also found on isolates not neutralized by 2G12. The Manalpha1-->2Man residues of gp120 therefore provide a vaccine target that is physically larger and antigenically more conserved than the 2G12 epitope itself. This study revises and extends our understanding of the glycan shield of HIV with implications for AIDS vaccine design.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                2 August 2011
                : 6
                : 8
                [1 ]Owensboro Cancer Research Program, James Graham Brown Cancer Center and Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Louisville, Kentucky, United States of America
                [2 ]Rega Institute for Medical Research, K.U. Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
                [3 ]Molecular Targets Laboratory, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, Maryland, United States of America
                Center for Disease Control and Prevention, United States of America
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: JCK DH DS AJ SKR NM BRO KEP. Performed the experiments: JCK DH AJ SRK WW JMW KEP. Analyzed the data: JCK DH DS AJ SKR NM BRO KEP. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: KEP. Wrote the paper: KEP JCK.

                This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.
                Page count
                Pages: 15
                Research Article
                Immune System Proteins
                Protein Interactions
                Biomacromolecule-Ligand Interactions
                Plant Biotechnology
                Genetically Modified Organisms
                Immune System
                Immune Response
                Immune Activation
                Immunodeficiency Viruses
                Plant Science
                Plant Biochemistry
                Plant Biotechnology
                Infectious Diseases
                Viral Diseases
                HIV prevention
                Gynecologic Infections
                Infectious Disease Control
                Sexually Transmitted Diseases
                Women's Health



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