New HIV-1 replication pathway discovered

September 18, 2013, New York University
New HIV-1 replication pathway discovered
Dr. David N. Levy [LEFT] and Dr. Benjamin Trinité

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 them from developing AIDS.

Now, a team of researchers led by Dr. David N. Levy, Associate Professor of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology at the New York University College of Dentistry (NYUCD), have discovered a new way that HIV-1 reproduces itself which could advance the search for new ways to combat infection.

For decades, scientists have been confident that HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS, must insert its into a cell's DNA in order to reproduce. This process, called "integration," makes the virus a permanent part of the cell. Some of these infected cells can remain as long as the person is alive, and this is one reason why HIV+ individuals must remain on anti-HIV drugs for life.

Dr. Levy's National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research, "HIV-1 replication without integration," published today on-line in the Journal of Virology, with lead author Dr. Benjamin Trinité, a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Levy's laboratory, has shown HIV-1 can sometimes skip this integration step entirely.

"Although this is not the virus' main method for replicating, having this option available can help HIV survive," said Dr. Levy. "These new findings suggest one mechanism by which HIV may be surviving in the face of antiviral drugs, and suggests new avenues for research into eliminating infection."

The integration step is highly inefficient and actually fails up to 99% of the time, leaving most viruses stranded outside of the safe harbor of cell's DNA. It has been assumed that these stranded, or "unintegrated" viruses were unable to reproduce, but Dr. Levy's team has found that if the conditions are right they can generate new viruses that infect new cells.

The team also found that the unintegrated viruses can survive for many weeks in cells, allowing HIV to "hide out" in a dormant state. The ability of HIV-1 to go dormant helps it avoid elimination by and immune responses.

"There is intense interest by researchers in the idea that new drugs might be developed to help to completely eliminate the virus from infected individuals," said Dr. Levy. "We think that the new replication mechanism we have found could provide a target for drugs designed to eliminate infection."

Dr Levy notes, an interesting phenomenon which other researchers have observed is that some bacteria which live in our mouths can stimulate HIV-1 to emerge from its dormant state.

"NYUCD has some terrific groups of researchers who are expert in oral flora and HIV, so we'll be quite interested in working with them to find out how oral health might influence the new replication pathway my group has discovered," added Dr. Levy.

Explore further: Scientists discover how HIV kills immune cells

Related Stories

Scientists discover how HIV kills immune cells

June 5, 2013
Untreated HIV infection destroys a person's immune system by killing infection-fighting cells, but precisely when and how HIV wreaks this destruction has been a mystery until now. New research by scientists at the National ...

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 ...

Discovery may help prevent HIV 'reservoirs' from forming

April 17, 2013
Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have discovered how the protein that blocks HIV-1 from multiplying in white blood cells is regulated. HIV-1 is the virus that causes AIDS, and the discovery ...

Researchers make HIV wake up call

March 4, 2013
Researchers have moved a step closer to finding a cure for HIV by successfully luring the 'sleeping' virus out of hiding in infected cells.

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 ...

Platelets block HIV

July 23, 2013
Scientists of the DPZ have shown that platelet activation inhibits the host cell entry of HIV

Recommended for you

HIV-1 genetic diversity is higher in vaginal tract than in blood during early infection

January 18, 2018
A first-of-its-kind study has found that the genetic diversity of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is higher in the vaginal tract than in the blood stream during early infection. This finding, published in PLOS ...

War in Ukraine has escalated HIV spread in the country: study

January 15, 2018
Conflict in Ukraine has increased the risk of HIV outbreaks throughout the country as displaced HIV-infected people move from war-affected regions to areas with higher risk of transmission, according to analysis by scientists.

Researchers offer new model for uncovering true HIV mortality rates in Zambia

January 12, 2018
A new study that seeks to better ascertain HIV mortality rates in Zambia could provide a model for improved national and regional surveillance approaches, and ultimately, more effective HIV treatment strategies.

New drug capsule may allow weekly HIV treatment

January 9, 2018
Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital have developed a capsule that can deliver a week's worth of HIV drugs in a single dose. This advance could make it much easier for patients to adhere to the strict schedule ...

New long-acting, less-toxic HIV drug suppresses virus in humanized mice

January 8, 2018
A team of Yale researchers tested a new chemical compound that suppresses HIV, protects immune cells, and remains effective for weeks with a single dose. In animal experiments, the compound proved to be a promising new candidate ...

Usage remains low for pill that can prevent HIV infection

January 8, 2018
From gritty neighborhoods in New York and Los Angeles to clinics in Kenya and Brazil, health workers are trying to popularize a pill that has proven highly effective in preventing HIV but which—in their view—remains woefully ...

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.