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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2002 Jul;13(7):1806-15.

HIV-1 Nef induces proliferation and anchorage-independent growth in podocytes.

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  • 1Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, One Gustave L. Levy Place, New York, NY 10029, USA.


HIV-associated nephropathy (HIVAN) is now the third leading cause of end-stage renal disease in the African American population. HIV-1 infects renal tubular and glomerular epithelial cells or podocytes, cells that are a critical part of the filtration barrier. HIV-1 infection induces the loss of podocyte differentiation markers and increases podocyte proliferation. It has been previously shown that HIV-infection induces loss of contact inhibition. Here, the HIV-1 gene responsible for proliferative changes is identified by using cultured podocytes in vitro. The HIV-1 proviral construct, pNL4-3 was rendered noninfectious by replacing the HIV-1 gag/pol sequences with an EGFP reporter gene (pNL4-3: DeltaG/P-EGFP). This construct was then pseudotyped with VSV.G envelope to infect podocytes that were conditionally immortalized with SV-40 T antigen. In addition, mutated constructs were engineered with premature stop codons in the HIV-1 env, vif, vpr, vpu, nef, or rev genes. The parental construct and all the other mutated constructs, with the exception of nef, induced proliferation under nonpermissive conditions and anchorage-independent growth (colony formation in soft agar) under permissive conditions. In contrast, deletion of nef markedly reduced proliferation and colony formation. Although tat alone, or tat plus rev induced marginal levels of anchorage-independent growth, coexpression with nef significantly increased colony formation. Finally, stable expression of Nef in a retroviral vector, pBabe-puro, was sufficient to induce increased proliferation and colony formation. Moreover, nef induced saturation density and loss of contact inhibition. These data indicate that Nef induces multiple proliferative effects in podocytes in culture and that nef may therefore be an important gene in the pathogenesis of HIVAN in vivo.

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