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Cell Res. 2006 Feb;16(2):174-81.

Midkine, a cytokine that inhibits HIV infection by binding to the cell surface expressed nucleolin.

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  • 1UPR 2228 CNRS, UFR Biomedicale-Université René Descartes, 45 rue des Saints Pères, 75270 Paris Cedex 6, France. ara.hovanessian@univ-paris5.fr


The growth factor midkine (MK) is a cytokine that inhibits HIV infection in cell cultures in an autocrine and paracrine manner by blocking the attachment of HIV particles to permissive cells. MK mRNA is systematically expressed in adult peripheral blood lymphocytes from healthy donors, while its expression becomes markedly but transiently increased upon in vitro treatment of lymphocytes with IL-2 or IFN-gamma and activation of T lymphocytes by PHA or through the engagement of the CD28 antigen. The binding of MK to cells occurs specifically at a high and a low affinity binding site. This low affinity-binding site is the cell-surface expressed nucleolin, which is implicated in the mechanism of the initial attachment of HIV particles to cells. Accordingly, the nucleolin-binding HB-19 pseudopeptide has no effect on the MK binding to the high affinity binding site, whereas it prevents the binding of MK to the low affinity binding site, thus suggesting the low affinity receptor of MK is the cell-surface-expressed nucleolin. Confocal immunofluorescence laser microscopy revealed the colocalization of MK and the cell-surface-expressed nucleolin at distinct spots. The use of various deletion constructs of nucleolin then indicates that the extreme C-terminal end of nucleolin, containing repeats of the amino acid motif RGG, as the domain that binds MK. The specific binding of MK to the surface nucleolin is independent of heparan sulfate and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans. After binding to cells, MK enters cells by an active process in which nucleolin and lipid rafts appear to be implicated. The potent and the distinct anti-HIV action of MK along with its enhanced expression in lymphocytes by various physiological stimuli, point out that MK is a cytokine that could be involved in HIV pathogenesis.

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