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J Virol. 2004 Feb;78(4):1685-96.

Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 Nef associates with lipid rafts to downmodulate cell surface CD4 and class I major histocompatibility complex expression and to increase viral infectivity.

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  • 1Myles H. Thaler Center for AIDS and Human Retrovirus Research, Carter Immunology Center, and the Department of Microbiology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908, USA.


Lipid rafts are membrane microdomains that are functionally distinct from other membrane regions. We have shown that 10% of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) Nef expressed in SupT1 cells is present in lipid rafts and that this represents virtually all of the membrane-associated Nef. To determine whether raft targeting, rather than simply membrane localization, has functional significance, we created a Nef fusion protein (LAT-Nef) containing the N-terminal 35 amino acids from LAT, a protein that is exclusively localized to rafts. Greater than 90% of the LAT-Nef protein was found in the raft fraction. In contrast, a mutated form, lacking two cysteine palmitoylation sites, showed less than 5% raft localization. Both proteins were equally expressed and targeted nearly exclusively to membranes. The LAT-Nef protein was more efficient than its nonraft mutant counterpart at downmodulating both cell surface CD4 and class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC) expression, as well as in enhancing first-round infectivity and being incorporated into virus particles. This demonstrates that targeting of Nef to lipid rafts is mechanistically important for all of these functions. Compared to wild-type Nef, LAT-Nef downmodulated class I MHC nearly as effectively as the wild-type Nef protein, but was only about 60% as effective for CD4 downmodulation and 30% as effective for infectivity enhancement. Since the LAT-Nef protein was found entirely in rafts while the wild-type Nef protein was distributed 10% in rafts and 90% in the soluble fraction, our results suggest that class I MHC downmodulation by Nef may be performed exclusively by raft-bound Nef. In contrast, CD4 downmodulation and infectivity enhancement may require a non-membrane-bound Nef component as well as the membrane-bound form.

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