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Aug 26, 2015
Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America
T-cell expression levels of CC chemokine receptor 5 (CCR5) are a critical determinant of HIV/AIDS susceptibility, and manifest wide variations (i) between T-cell subsets and among individuals and (ii) in T-cell activation-induced increases in expression levels. We demonstrate that a unifying mechanism for this variation is differences in constitutive and T-cell activation-induced DNA methylation status of CCR5 cis-regulatory regions (cis-regions). Commencing at an evolutionarily conserved CpG (CpG -41), CCR5 cis-regions manifest lower vs. higher methylation in T cells with higher vs. lower CCR5 levels (memory vs. naïve T cells) and in memory T cells with higher vs. lower CCR5 levels. HIV-related and in vitro induced T-cell activation is associated with demethylation of these cis-regions. CCR5 haplotypes associated with increased vs. decreased gene/surface expression levels and HIV/AIDS susceptibility magnify vs. dampen T-cell activation-associated demethylation. Methylation status of CCR5 intron 2 explains a larger proportion of the variation in CCR5 levels than genotype or T-cell activation. The ancestral, protective CCR5-HHA haplotype bears a polymorphism at CpG -41 that is (i) specific to southern Africa, (ii) abrogates binding of the transcription factor CREB1 to this cis-region, and (iii) exhibits a trend for overrepresentation in persons with reduced susceptibility to HIV and disease progression. Genotypes lacking the CCR5-Δ32 mutation but with hypermethylated cis-regions have CCR5 levels similar to genotypes heterozygous for CCR5-Δ32. In HIV-infected individuals, CCR5 cis-regions remain demethylated, despite restoration of CD4+ counts (≥800 cells per mm(3)) with antiretroviral therapy. Thus, methylation content of CCR5 cis-regions is a central epigenetic determinant of T-cell CCR5 levels, and possibly HIV-related outcomes.

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