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Cell Host Microbe. 2008 Jul 17;4(1):63-76. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2008.05.015.

Evidence for a pathogenic determinant in HIV-1 Nef involved in B cell dysfunction in HIV/AIDS.

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  • 1University of Massachusetts Medical School, Program in Molecular Medicine, 373 Plantation Street, Worcester, MA 01605, USA. <>


B lymphocyte hyperactivation and elevated immunoglobulin levels (hypergammaglobulinemia) are pathogenic manifestations of HIV-1 infection. Here we provide evidence that these hallmarks are caused by a soluble factor whose production by infected macrophages is induced by the HIV-1 Nef protein. In vitro, HIV-1-infected macrophages or macrophages expressing Nef promoted B cell activation and differentiation to immunoglobulin-secreting cells. Nef-mediated activation of NF-kappaB in macrophages induced secretion of the acute-phase protein ferritin, and ferritin was necessary and sufficient for the observed Nef-dependent B cell changes. The extent of hypergammaglobulinemia in HIV-1-infected individuals correlated directly with plasma ferritin levels and with viral load. Furthermore, the induction of ferritin production and hypergammaglobulinemia was recapitulated when Nef was specifically expressed in macrophages and T cells of transgenic mice. Collectively, these results indicate that the HIV-1 Nef protein carries a pathogenic determinant that governs B cell defects in HIV-1 infection.

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