Researchers identified new gene which may have the ability to prevent HIV from spreading

September 18, 2013
Novel gene discovery could lead to new HIV treatments
This image shows the HIV virus. Credit: King's College London

A team of researchers led by King's College London has for the first time identified a new gene which may have the ability to prevent HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from spreading after it enters the body.

Published in Nature today, the study is the first to identify a role for the human MX2 gene in inhibiting HIV. Researchers say this gene could be a new target for effective, less toxic treatments where the body's own natural defence system is mobilised against the .

The work was funded by the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and King's College London. The study was also supported by the Wellcome Trust and European Commission.

Scientists carried out experiments on in the lab, introducing the virus to two different cell lines and observing the effects. In one cell line the MX2 gene was expressed or 'switched on', and in the other it was not, or 'silenced'. They saw that in the cells where MX2 was silenced, the virus replicated and spread. In the cells where the MX2 gene was expressed, the virus was not able to replicate and new viruses were not produced.

The work was led by Dr Caroline Goujon and Professor Mike Malim at the Department of Infectious Diseases, King's College London. Professor Malim said: "This is an extremely exciting finding which advances our understanding of how HIV virus interacts with the immune system and opens up opportunities to develop new therapies to treat the disease. Until now we knew very little about the MX2 gene, but now we recognise both its potent anti-viral function and a key point of vulnerability in the life cycle of HIV.

"Developing drugs to stimulate the body's natural inhibitors is a very important approach because you are triggering a natural process and therefore won't have the problem of . There are two possible routes – it may be possible to develop either a molecule that mimics the role of MX2 or a drug which activates the gene's natural capabilities.

"Although people with HIV are living longer, healthier lives with the virus thanks to current effective treatments, they can often be toxic for the body and drug resistance can become an issue with long-term use.

It is important to continue to find new ways of mobilising the body's natural defence systems and this gene appears to be a key player in establishing viral control in people with HIV."

Explore further: New HIV-1 replication pathway discovered

More information: Human MX2 is an interferon-induced post-entry inhibitor of HIV-1 infection, DOI: 10.1038/nature12542

Related Stories

New HIV-1 replication pathway discovered

September 18, 2013
Current drug treatments for HIV work well to keep patients from developing AIDS, but no one has found a way to entirely eliminate the virus from the human body, so patients continue to require lifelong treatment to prevent ...

Cold sore linked to mutation in gene, study suggests

September 16, 2013
Why some people are troubled by cold sores while others are not has finally been explained by scientists.

AIDS vaccine candidate appears to completely clear virus from the body

September 11, 2013
An HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate developed by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University appears to have the ability to completely clear an AIDS-causing virus from the body. The promising vaccine candidate is being developed ...

Protease inhibitor resistance involves multiple stages of the HIV-1 life cycle

August 27, 2013
HIV-1 protease inhibitors are very effective antiviral drugs. These drugs target HIV-1 proteases, which are required for viral replication. Despite the success of protease inhibitors for suppressing HIV-1, some patients do ...

Innate immune system can kill HIV when a viral gene is deactivated

March 28, 2013
Human cells have an intrinsic capacity to destroy HIV. However, the virus has evolved to contain a gene that blocks this ability. When this gene is removed from the virus, the innate human immune system destroys HIV by mutating ...

Recommended for you

Scientists capture first high-resolution image of key HIV protein transitional state

July 13, 2017
A new, three-dimensional snapshot of HIV demonstrates the radical structural transformations that enable the virus to recognize and infect host cells, according to a new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute ...

Barrier to autoimmune disease may open door to HIV, study suggests

July 11, 2017
Researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine have discovered that a process that protects the body from autoimmune disease also prevents the immune system from generating antibodies that can neutralize the ...

Team tests best delivery mode for potential HIV vaccine

June 20, 2017
For decades, HIV has successfully evaded all efforts to create an effective vaccine but researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI) are steadily inching ...

Mathematical modeling uncovers mysteries of HIV infection in the brain

June 19, 2017
After uncovering the progression of HIV infection in the brain thanks to a new mathematical model developed by a UAlberta research team, clinicians and researchers are developing a nasal spray to administer drugs more effectively.

Understanding HIV's persistence

June 19, 2017
Most cells in the human body have a limited lifespan, typically dying after several days or weeks. And yet, HIV-1 infected cells manage to persist in the body for decades. Current treatment for HIV is very effective at suppressing ...

Knowing HIV levels are 'undetectable' may affect sexual behavior

June 15, 2017
Understanding and responding to behavioral trends in groups that are at high risk for HIV infection is critical to the development of effective strategies that decrease HIV incidence and improve access to care. New research ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.