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Department of Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology

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Microbiology | Virology | Viruses


It has recently emerged that HIV-1 Nef counteracts the antiviral host proteins SERINC3 and SERINC5. In particular, SERINC5 inhibits the infectivity of progeny virions when incorporated. SERINC3 and SERINC5 are also counteracted by the unrelated murine leukemia virus glycosylated Gag (glycoGag) protein, which possesses a potent Nef-like activity on HIV-1 infectivity. We now report that a minimal glycoGag termed glycoMA can fully substitute for Nef in promoting HIV-1 replication in Jurkat T lymphoid cells, indicating that Nef enhances replication in these cells mainly by counteracting SERINCs. In contrast, the SERINC antagonist glycoMA was unable to substitute for Nef in MOLT-3 T lymphoid cells, in which HIV-1 replication was highly dependent on Nef, and remained so even in the absence of SERINC3 and SERINC5. As in MOLT-3 cells, glycoMA was unable to substitute for Nef in stimulating HIV-1 replication in primary human cells. Although the ability of Nef mutants to promote HIV-1 replication in MOLT-3 cells correlated with the ability to engage endocytic machinery and to downregulate CD4, Nef nevertheless rescued virus replication under conditions where CD4 downregulation did not occur. Taken together, our observations raise the possibility that Nef triggers the endocytosis of a novel antiviral factor that is active against both laboratory-adapted and primary HIV-1 strains.

IMPORTANCE The Nef protein of HIV-1 and the unrelated glycoGag protein of a murine leukemia virus similarly prevent the uptake of antiviral host proteins called SERINC3 and SERINC5 into HIV-1 particles, which enhances their infectiousness. We now show that although both SERINC antagonists can in principle similarly enhance HIV-1 replication, glycoGag is unable to substitute for Nef in primary human cells and in a T cell line called MOLT-3. In MOLT-3 cells, Nef remained crucial for HIV-1 replication even in the absence of SERINC3 and SERINC5. The pronounced effect of Nef on HIV-1 spreading in MOLT-3 cells correlated with the ability of Nef to engage cellular endocytic machinery and to downregulate the HIV-1 receptor CD4 but nevertheless persisted in the absence of CD4 downregulation. Collectively, our results provide evidence for a potent novel restriction activity that affects even relatively SERINC-resistant HIV-1 isolates and is counteracted by Nef.


Nef, SERINC5, human immunodeficiency virus, infectivity, virus replication

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Copyright © 2019 Wu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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MBio. 2019 Jun 11;10(3). pii: mBio.01071-19. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01071-19. Link to article on publisher's site

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.