Study suggests a way to stop HIV in its tracks

December 1, 2017, Loyola University Health System
HIV-1 Virus. Credit: J Roberto Trujillo/Wikipedia

When HIV-1 infects an immune cell, the virus travels to the nucleus so quickly there's not enough time to set off the cell's alarm system.

Now, a Loyola University Chicago study has discovered the protein that helps the virus travel so fast. Researchers found that without this protein, the virus became stranded in the cytoplasm, where it was detected by the viral defense system. (The cytoplasm is the portion of the cell outside the nucleus.)

"By preventing its normal movement, we essentially turned HIV-1 into a sitting duck for cellular sensors," said Edward M. Campbell, PhD, corresponding author of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Campbell is an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

HIV-1 infects and kills immune system cells, including T cells and macrophages that were used in the study. This cripples the immune system, making the patient vulnerable to common bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that are usually harmless in people with healthy immune systems.

After HIV-1 enters a cell, it has to work its way through the cytoplasm to the nucleus. Once inside the nucleus, HIV-1 takes control of the cell and makes additional HIV-1 copies. But getting through the cytoplasm is not easy. Cytoplasm consists of fluid that is thick with proteins and structures such as mitochondria. "Something the size of a virus cannot just diffuse through the cytoplasm," Campbell said. "It would be like trying to float to the bathroom in a very crowded bar. You need to have a plan."

HIV-1 is able to get to the nucleus quickly via tubular tracks called microtubules. The virus attaches itself to a molecular motor called dynein, which moves down the microtubule like a train car on tracks.

Campbell and colleagues discovered the "ticket" HIV-1 needs to get on the train—a protein called bicaudal D2. HIV-1 binds to bicaudal D2, which recruits the dynein . The dynein then transports HIV-1 towards the .

The finding raises the possibility of developing a drug that would prevent HIV-1 from binding to bicaudal D2, thus stranding the in the . This would not only prevent infection, but also give the cell time to turn on antiviral genes that would protect it and neighboring from infection.

The study is titled "Bicaudal D2 facilitates the cytoplasmic trafficking and nuclear import of HIV-1 genomes during infection."

Explore further: Study reveals how HIV enters cell nucleus

More information: Adarsh Dharan et al, Bicaudal D2 facilitates the cytoplasmic trafficking and nuclear import of HIV-1 genomes during infection, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1712033114

Related Stories

Study reveals how HIV enters cell nucleus

June 21, 2016
Loyola University Chicago scientists have solved a mystery that has long baffled HIV researchers: How does HIV manage to enter the nucleus of immune system cells?

Protein identified as important trigger of antiviral response

May 7, 2014
Cells have to protect themselves: against damage in their genetic material for one thing, but also against attack from the outside, by viruses for example. They do this by using different mechanisms: special proteins search ...

HIV infection hijacks intracellular highways

September 27, 2017
A Northwestern Medicine study found the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) uses proteins called diaphanous-related formins (DRFs) to hijack the cytoskeleton of healthy cells, findings that deepen the understanding of HIV ...

Novel approach to track HIV infection

August 18, 2017
Northwestern Medicine scientists have developed a novel method of tracking HIV infection, allowing the behavior of individual virions—infectious particles—to be connected to infectivity.

Newly discovered HIV genome modification may put a twist on vaccine and drug design

February 22, 2016
Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered that HIV infection of human immune cells triggers a massive increase in methylation, a chemical modification, to both human and viral RNA, ...

Innate immunity of plants against viruses does not act as anticipated

January 4, 2011
The so-called immune receptor Rx, conferring the resistance of some potato cultivars against potato virus X, does recognise the viruses in the cytoplasm, but – unexpectedly – its presence in the nucleus is also ...

Recommended for you

New HIV therapy reduces virus, boosts immunity in drug-resistant patients

August 15, 2018
In a study, a new HIV drug reduced viral replication and increased immune cells in individuals with advanced, drug-resistant HIV infection. Used in combination with existing HIV medications, the drug is a promising strategy ...

In choosing care, HIV patients in Zambia prefer kindness over convenience

August 15, 2018
As a healthcare patient, what would you sacrifice for a provider with a nice—rather than rude—attitude? For HIV patients in Zambia, the answer may surprise you.

Details of HIV-1 structure open door for potential therapies

August 9, 2018
New research provides details of how the structure of the HIV-1 virus is assembled, findings that offer potential new targets for treatment.

Researchers uncover potential new drug targets in the fight against HIV

August 7, 2018
Johns Hopkins scientists report they have identified two potential new drug targets for the treatment of HIV. The finding is from results of a small, preliminary study of 19 people infected with both HIV—the virus that ...

Naltrexone helps HIV positive individuals reduce heavy alcohol use

August 7, 2018
Extended-release naltrexone—an injection that decreases heavy drinking in the general population when taken in conjunction with counseling—appears to help HIV-positive individuals reduce their number of heavy drinking ...

EU door opens for generic version of AIDS medicine Truvada

July 26, 2018
Patient associations on Thursday lauded an EU decision to allow the sale of generic versions of Truvada, an anti-retroviral medicine used by those diagnosed HIV-positive, the virus causing AIDS.

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.