Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas en Retrovirus y SIDA (INBIRS), Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) and Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Buenos Aires, Argentina [Email]
Histidine-rich glycoprotein (HRG) is an abundant plasma protein with a multidomain structure, allowing its interaction with many ligands, including phospholipids, plasminogen, fibrinogen, IgG antibodies, and heparan sulfate. HRG has been shown to regulate different biological responses, such as angiogenesis, coagulation, and fibrinolysis. Here, we found that HRG almost completely abrogated the infection of Ghost cells, Jurkat cells, CD4+ T cells, and macrophages by HIV-1 at a low pH (range, 6.5 to 5.5) but not at a neutral pH. HRG was shown to interact with the heparan sulfate expressed by target cells, inhibiting an early postbinding step associated with HIV-1 infection. More importantly, by acting on the viral particle itself, HRG induced a deleterious effect, which reduces viral infectivity. Because cervicovaginal secretions in healthy women show low pH values, even after semen deposition, our observations suggest that HRG might represent a constitutive defense mechanism in the vaginal mucosa. Of note, low pH also enabled HRG to inhibit the infection of HEp-2 cells and Vero cells by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2), respectively, suggesting that HRG might display broad antiviral activity under acidic conditions.IMPORTANCE Vaginal intercourse represents a high-risk route for HIV-1 transmission. The efficiency of male-to-female HIV-1 transmission has been estimated to be 1 in every 1,000 episodes of sexual intercourse, reflecting the high degree of protection conferred by the genital mucosa. However, the contribution of different host factors to the protection against HIV-1 at mucosal surfaces remains poorly defined. Here, we report for the first time that acidic values of pH enable the plasma protein histidine-rich glycoprotein (HRG) to strongly inhibit HIV-1 infection. Because cervicovaginal secretions usually show low pH values, our observations suggest that HRG might represent a constitutive antiviral mechanism in the vaginal mucosa. Interestingly, infection by other viruses, such as respiratory syncytial virus and herpes simplex virus 2, was also markedly inhibited by HRG at low pH values, suggesting that extracellular acidosis enables HRG to display broad antiviral activity.