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Nature. 2005 May 5;435(7038):108-14. Epub 2005 Apr 13.

Cellular APOBEC3G restricts HIV-1 infection in resting CD4+ T cells.

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Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.


In contrast to activated CD4+ T cells, resting human CD4+ T cells circulating in blood are highly resistant to infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Whether the inability of HIV to infect these resting CD4+ T cells is due to the lack of a key factor, or alternatively reflects the presence of an efficient mechanism for defence against HIV, is not clear. Here we show that the anti-retroviral deoxycytidine deaminase APOBEC3G strongly protects unstimulated peripheral blood CD4+ T cells against HIV-1 infection. In activated CD4+ T cells, cytoplasmic APOBEC3G resides in an enzymatically inactive, high-molecular-mass (HMM) ribonucleoprotein complex that converts to an enzymatically active low-molecular-mass (LMM) form after treatment with RNase. In contrast, LMM APOBEC3G predominates in unstimulated CD4+ T cells, where HIV-1 replication is blocked and reverse transcription is impaired. Mitogen activation induces the recruitment of LMM APOBEC3G into the HMM complex, and this correlates with a sharp increase in permissivity for HIV infection in these stimulated cells. Notably, when APOBEC3G-specific small interfering RNAs are introduced into unstimulated CD4+ T cells, the early replication block encountered by HIV-1 is greatly relieved. Thus, LMM APOBEC3G functions as a potent post-entry restriction factor for HIV-1 in unstimulated CD4+ T cells. Surprisingly, sequencing of the reverse transcripts slowly formed in unstimulated CD4+ T cells reveals only low levels of dG dA hypermutation, raising the possibility that the APOBEC3G-restricting activity may not be strictly dependent on deoxycytidine deamination.

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