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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Sep 3;93(18):9571-6.

Apoptosis mediated by HIV protease is preceded by cleavage of Bcl-2.

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  • 1Molecular Biology Department, DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company, Wilmington, De 19880-0336, USA.


Expression of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV) protease in cultured cells leads to apoptosis, preceded by cleavage of bcl-2, a key negative regulator of cell death. In contrast, a high level of bcl-2 protects cells in vitro and in vivo from the viral protease and prevents cell death following HIV infection of human lymphocytes, while reducing the yields of viral structural proteins, infectivity, and tumor necrosis factor alpha. We present a model for HIV replication in which the viral protease depletes the infected cells of bcl-2, leading to oxidative stress-dependent activation of NF kappa B, a cellular factor required for HIV transcription, and ultimately to cell death. Purified bcl-2 is cleaved by HIV protease between phenylalanine 112 and alanine 113. The results suggest a new option for HIV gene therapy; bcl-2 muteins that have noncleavable alterations surrounding the HIV protease cleavage site.

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