Variation in HIV's ability to disable host defenses contributes to rapid evolution

July 21, 2005

One of the reasons HIV is so difficult to contain and treat is its rapid evolution. Understanding how host defenses and viral countermeasures contribute to that evolution is vital.

Host cells produce two proteins that mutate HIV DNA and interfere with the virus's ability to replicate. But HIV produces a protein, called Vif, that can disable the two defensive proteins.

Vif is full of variation, both in sequence and in function, according to a new study in PLoS Pathogens, and this could in turn potentially accelerate the evolution of HIV.

Within a single patient, some versions of Vif don't work at all; others counteract only one of the host's defensive proteins. "It's a leaky system," according to Paul D. Bieniasz, senior author of the study and associate professor at The Rockefeller University's Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center.

Some variations in Vif only partially inactivate the defensive proteins that cause HIV to mutate, and might even promote further variation in the virus within patients. "This work elucidates new pathways which shape the evolution of the virus," says Viviana Simon, lead author of the study.
-end-
Citation: Simon V, Zennou V, Murray D, Huang Y, Ho DD, et al. (2005) Natural variation in Vif function can differentially impact APOBEC3G/3F neutralization: A potential role in HIV-1 diversification. PLoS Pathogens 1(1): e6.

CONTACT: Viviana Simon
Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center
The Rockefeller University
455 First Avenue
New York, NY 10016
United States of America
212-448-5128
vsimon@adarc.org

Paul Bieniasz
Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center
The Rockefeller University
455 First Avenue
New York, NY 10016
United States of America
212-448-5070
212-448-5159 (fax)
paul.bieniasz@adarc.org

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"Understanding pathogens and how they interact with their hosts is one of the most serious scientific challenges we face. New pathogens are emerging all the time, and others adapt to treatments efforts," Young says. The journal will publish rigorously peer-reviewed papers in the broad field of pathogens research, which includes bacteria, fungi, parasites, prions, and viruses.

Open access--free availability and unrestricted use­--to all articles published in the journal is central to the mission of PLoS Pathogens and the Public Library of Science. "Our open-access license means [the research published] is immediately available to scientists all over the world," the journal's editorial team explains.

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