GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program



First Thesis Advisor

John L. Sullivan, M.D.


HIV-1, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Virus Replication, Gene Products, vif, Virus Assembly, Cytidine Deaminase


The binding of HIV-1 Vif to the cellular cytidine deaminase Apobec3G and subsequent prevention of Apobec3G virion incorporation have recently been identified as critical steps for the successful completion of the HIV-1 viral life cycle. This interaction occurs in the cytoplasm where Vif complexes with Apobec3G and directs its degradation via the proteasome pathway or sequesters it away from the assembling virion, thereby preventing viral packaging of Apobec3G.

While many recent studies have focused on several aspects of Vif interaction with Apobec3G, the subcellular localization of Vif and Apobec3G during the viral life cycle have not been fully considered. Inhibition of Apobec3G requires direct interaction of Vif with Apobec3G, which can only be achieved when both proteins are present in the same subcellular compartment.

In this thesis, a unique approach was utilized to study the impact of Vif subcellular localization on Vif function. The question of whether localization could influence function was brought about during the course of studying a severely attenuated viral isolate from a long-term non-progressor who displayed a remarkable disease course. Initial observations indicated that this highly attenuated virus contained a mutant Vif protein that inhibited growth and replication. Upon further investigation, it was found that the Vif defect was atypical in that the mutant was fully functional in in vitro assays, but that it was aberrantly localized to the nucleus in the cell. This provided the basis for the study of Vif localization and its contribution to Vif function.

In addition to the unique Vif mutant that was employed, while determining the localization and replication phenotypes of the differentially localized Vif proteins, a novel pathway for Vif function was defined. Copious publications have recently defined the mechanism for Vif inhibition of Apobec3G. Vif is able to recruit Apobec3G into a complex that is targeted for degradation by the proteasome. However, this directed degradation model did not fully explain the complete neutralization of Apobec3G observed in cell culture. Other recent works have proposed the existence of a second, complementary pathway for Vif function. This pathway is defined here as formation of an aggresome that prevents Apobec3G packaging by binding and sequestering Apobec3G in a perinuclear aggregate. This second mechanism is believed to work in parallel with the already defined directed degradation pathway to promote complete exclusion of Apobec3G from the virion.

The data presented here provide insight into two areas of HIV research. First, the work on the naturally occurring Vif mutant isolated from a long-term non-progress or confirms the importance of Vif in in vivo pathogenesis and points to Vif as a potentially useful gene for manipulation in vaccine or therapy design due to its critical contributions to in vivo virus replication. Additionally, the work done to address the subcellular localization of Vif led to the proposal of a second pathway for Vif function. This could have implications in the field of basic Vif research in terms of completely understanding and defining the functions of Vif. Again, a more complete knowledge about Vif can help in the development of novel therapies aimed at disrupting Vif function and abrogating HIV-1 replication.


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