Discovery of HIV protein opens up new drug production

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Immune system

Scientists have discovered the existence of a HIV accessory protein
that disables host immunity via receptor-protein intermediary in a
discovery that points to possible novel ways to fight AIDS, immune
disorders and sepsis.

"With additional study this research may provide approaches for designing new drugs to fight AIDS, as well as for inflammatory disorders,"​ said David Weiner, associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine,

"This research also gives us a new way to think about the relationship between immune activation and sepsis, and it may have implications ultimately for our understanding of novel approaches to prevent sepsis."

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine discovered that an HIV-1 accessory protein called Vpr, which destroys the host cell's ability to survive by binding to a host receptor.

This, in turn, keeps an important enzyme from activating the cell's immune system.

These findings refine an earlier understanding of Vpr HIV pathogenesis and imply new approaches to treating AIDS, inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and possibly sepsis.

Weiner's group found that Vpr binds to the glucocorticoid receptor, but it remained unclear whether the GR pathway was required for Vpr to commandeer the host cell's machinery.

"We started to realise a few years ago that no one had asked the real question: Is the glucocorticoid receptor necessary for Vpr's effects on the host cell?"​ said Weiner.

To answer this question, the researchers used a siRNA, a short sequence of RNA used to silence gene expression, to completely destroy expression of the glucocorticoid receptor protein.

When the researchers kept the glucocorticoid receptor protein from being made, Vpr did not kill host cells. "This indicated that glucocorticoid receptor function is not what's really necessary for Vpr activity," said Weiner.

"The glucocorticoid receptor-Vpr complex must be interacting with something else."

The team, led by first author Muthumani Karuppiah, senior research investigator, looked for molecules with which the glucocorticoid receptor-Vpr complex would bind and identified PARP-1, another protein that controls the action of NF-kB, a major immune regulator in the host cell.

To verify their idea, the researchers used a mouse model in which PARP-1 was knocked out and found that their cells were immune to sepsis (pathogens and their toxins in the blood), because the NF-kB molecules did not go into overdrive, kicking up inflammatory molecules called cytokines.

This data demonstrate that Vpr attacks PARP-1 activity, so the mice are immune to toxins created by pathogens - one indication that their immune surveillance has been compromised.

Using biochemistry tests, the researchers were able to show that Vpr does interact with PARP-1 through the glucocorticoid receptor. Vpr hitches a ride on the glucocorticoid receptor, driving glucocorticoid to bind to PARP-1- which, in turn, inactivates it."

"Ultimately, glucocorticoid is really an intermediary between Vpr and PARP-1,"​ said Weiner.

Weiner cites several potential clinical implications of this basic research. These findings show an immune function that had not been previously attributed to the glucocorticoid receptor.

This research appears in >Nature Cell Biology.

Related topics Preclinical Research Ingredients

Related news

Show more