HIV protein stops cell division, leading to more virus and sicker patients

SEATTLE -- T cells are supposed to be one of the bodys best defenses against the invading intracellular foes like viruses and some bacteria. But when they encounter HIV, some of these immune system cells become targets for infection. Once infected, T cells begin producing HIV. New research at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology is showing how the virus coerces T cells into becoming very efficient virus factories.

At the center of it is the HIV protein Vpr, which stops infected T cells from dividing. In doing so, Vpr helps HIV to harness the infected cells resources to create more HIV. The process goes on, creating more virus, which then go on to kill more T cells. The outcome is a sicker patient.

Michael P. Sherman, MD, PhD, Gladstone research scientist and UCSF assistant clinical professor of medicine, presented his research on Feb. 26 at the Ninth Annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.

Scientists already knew that laboratory cultured cells stopped dividing when large amounts of Vpr were artificially introduced into cells. Sherman and his research team showed that the cells also stopped dividing when natural amounts of Vpr were produced under the control of HIV.

What they didnt know was whether Vpr was also halting cell division in the cells of HIV-infected patients. The new research shows cell division is halted in HIV-infected cells taken from patient blood samples. The finding helps explain how HIV is able to reproduce so efficiently in the human body.

As cells normally move through the cell cycle, they arrive at S phase during which DNA is synthesized to duplicate the chromosomes in preparation for cell division. Prior to cell division, the cells will enter the G2 phase when the cell checks its internal systems to see if it is ready to divide. The recent studies reveal that infected activated cells do not divide but instead are paused in the G2 phase, a state more favorable fo

Contact: Laura Lane
University of California - San Francisco

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