Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Privatt et al. Cancer & Metabolism (2023) 11:13


Open access.


Background Kaposi sarcoma (KS) is a neoplastic disease etiologically associated with infection by the Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). KS manifests primarily as cutaneous lesions in individuals due to either age (classical KS), HIV infection (epidemic KS), or tissue rejection preventatives in transplantation (iatrogenic KS) but can also occur in individuals, predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), lacking any obvious immune suppression (endemic KS). The high endemicity of KSHV and human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV) co-infection in Africa results in KS being one of the top 5 cancers there. As with most viral cancers, infection with KSHV alone is insufficient to induce tumorigenesis. Indeed, KSHV infection of primary human endothelial cell cultures, even at high levels, is rarely associated with long-term culture, transformation, or growth deregulation, yet infection in vivo is sustained for life. Investigations of immune mediators that distinguish KSHV infection, KSHV/HIV co-infection, and symptomatic KS disease have yet to reveal consistent correlates of protection against or progression to KS. In addition to viral infection, it is plausible that pathogenesis also requires an immunological and metabolic environment permissive to the abnormal endothelial cell growth evident in KS tumors. In this study, we explored whether plasma metabolomes could differentiate asymptomatic KSHV-infected individuals with or without HIV co-infection and symptomatic KS from each other.

Methods To investigate how metabolic changes may correlate with co-infections and tumorigenesis, plasma samples derived from KSHV seropositive sub-Saharan African subjects in three groups, (A) asymptomatic (lacking neoplastic disease) with KSHV infection only, (B) asymptomatic co-infected with KSHV and HIV, and (C) symptomatic with clinically diagnosed KS, were subjected to analysis of lipid and polar metabolite profiles

Results Polar and nonpolar plasma metabolic differentials were evident in both comparisons. Integration of the metabolic findings with our previously reported KS transcriptomics data suggests dysregulation of amino acid/urea cycle and purine metabolic pathways, in concert with viral infection in KS disease progression.

Conclusions This study is, to our knowledge, the first to report human plasma metabolic differentials between in vivo KSHV infection and co-infection with HIV, as well as differentials between co-infection and epidemic KS.

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