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PTMA Gene Expression Inversely Related to HIV Abundance, Single-Cell Transcriptomic Study Finds

Using single-cell transcriptomics, researchers from Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and elsewhere have found that expression of the PTMA gene is inversely related to HIV viral abundance. As they report in Science Translational Medicine, the researchers analyzed blood samples from 14 people with acute HIV-1 infections, examining scRNA-seq and T cell receptor results as well as protein expression levels, to find host factors influencing HIV-1 levels. They also particularly focused on one patient, who had the highest viral load. Through this, the researchers found that high intracellular expression levels of PTMA, which encodes the prothymosin α protein, were associated with low viral RNA expression, a finding they confirmed in an additional 28 individuals. Further in vitro analyses showed that prothymosin α overexpression inhibits HIV transcription and replication. "[W]e have identified a candidate antiviral host factor on the basis of unbiased analyses of transcriptomes of individual vRNA+ cells in people living with HIV-1," the researchers write. "Our findings illustrate that new unbiased omics technologies enable identification of antiviral factors that may have utility for HIV-1 prevention and cure strategies."