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Virology. 2008 Mar 30;373(1):85-97. Epub 2007 Dec 20.

HIV-1 accessory proteins VPR and Vif modulate antiviral response by targeting IRF-3 for degradation.

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The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21231, USA.


The activation of IRF-3 during the early stages of viral infection is critical for the initiation of the antiviral response; however the activation of IRF-3 in HIV-1 infected cells has not yet been characterized. We demonstrate that the early steps of HIV-1 infection do not lead to the activation and nuclear translocation of IRF-3; instead, the relative levels of IRF-3 protein are decreased due to the ubiquitin-associated proteosome degradation. Addressing the molecular mechanism of this effect we show that the degradation is independent of HIV-1 replication and that virion-associated accessory proteins Vif and Vpr can independently degrade IRF-3. The null mutation of these two genes reduced the capacity of the HIV-1 virus to down modulate IRF-3 levels. The degradation was associated with Vif- and Vpr-mediated ubiquitination of IRF-3 and was independent of the activation of IRF-3. N-terminal lysine residues were shown to play a critical role in the Vif- and Vpr-mediated degradation of IRF-3. These data implicate Vif and Vpr in the disruption of the initial antiviral response and point to the need of HIV-1 to circumvent the antiviral response during the very early phase of replication.

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