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J Biol Chem. 2012 Apr 6;287(15):12550-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.340711. Epub 2012 Feb 23.

HIV/simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) accessory virulence factor Vpx loads the host cell restriction factor SAMHD1 onto the E3 ubiquitin ligase complex CRL4DCAF1.

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  • 1Department of Structural Biology and Pittsburgh Center for HIV Protein Interactions, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260, USA.


The sterile alpha motif and HD domain-containing protein-1 (SAMHD1) inhibits infection of myeloid cells by human and related primate immunodeficiency viruses (HIV and SIV). This potent inhibition is counteracted by the Vpx accessory virulence factor of HIV-2/SIVsm viruses, which targets SAMHD1 for proteasome-dependent degradation, by reprogramming cellular CRL4(DCAF1) E3 ubiquitin ligase. However, the precise mechanism of Vpx-dependent recruitment of human SAMHD1 onto the ligase, and the molecular interfaces on the respective molecules have not been defined. Here, we show that human SAMHD1 is recruited to the CRL4(DCAF1-Vpx) E3 ubiquitin ligase complex by interacting with the DCAF1 substrate receptor subunit in a Vpx-dependent manner. No stable association is detectable with DCAF1 alone. The SAMHD1 determinant for the interaction is a short peptide located distal to the SAMHD1 catalytic domain and requires the presence of Vpx for stable engagement. This peptide is sufficient to confer Vpx-dependent recruitment to CRL4(DCAF1) and ubiquitination when fused to heterologous proteins. The precise amino acid sequence of the peptide diverges among SAMHD1 proteins from different vertebrate species, explaining selective down-regulation of human SAMHD1 levels by Vpx. Critical amino acid residues of SAMHD1 and Vpx involved in the DCAF1-Vpx-SAMDH1 interaction were identified by mutagenesis. Our findings show that the N terminus of Vpx, bound to DCAF1, recruits SAMHD1 via its C terminus to CRL4, in a species-specific manner for proteasomal degradation.

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