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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e22982. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022982. Epub 2011 Aug 23.

HIV-1 Nef induces proinflammatory state in macrophages through its acidic cluster domain: involvement of TNF alpha receptor associated factor 2.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University Roma Tre, Rome, Italy.



HIV-1 Nef is a virulence factor that plays multiple roles during HIV replication. Recently, it has been described that Nef intersects the CD40 signalling in macrophages, leading to modification in the pattern of secreted factors that appear able to recruit, activate and render T lymphocytes susceptible to HIV infection. The engagement of CD40 by CD40L induces the activation of different signalling cascades that require the recruitment of specific tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factors (i.e. TRAFs). We hypothesized that TRAFs might be involved in the rapid activation of NF-κB, MAPKs and IRF-3 that were previously described in Nef-treated macrophages to induce the synthesis and secretion of proinflammatory cytokines, chemokines and IFNβ to activate STAT1, -2 and -3.


Searching for possible TRAF binding sites on Nef, we found a TRAF2 consensus binding site in the AQEEEE sequence encompassing the conserved four-glutamate acidic cluster. Here we show that all the signalling effects we observed in Nef treated macrophages depend on the integrity of the acidic cluster. In addition, Nef was able to interact in vitro with TRAF2, but not TRAF6, and this interaction involved the acidic cluster. Finally silencing experiments in THP-1 monocytic cells indicate that both TRAF2 and, surprisingly, TRAF6 are required for the Nef-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of STAT1 and STAT2.


Results reported here revealed TRAF2 as a new possible cellular interactor of Nef and highlighted that in monocytes/macrophages this viral protein is able to manipulate both the TRAF/NF-κB and TRAF/IRF-3 signalling axes, thereby inducing the synthesis of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines as well as IFNβ.

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