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J Virol. 2009 Jan;83(1):73-80. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01366-08. Epub 2008 Oct 22.

The cationic properties of SEVI underlie its ability to enhance human immunodeficiency virus infection.

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Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, University of California, P.O. Box 419100, San Francisco, CA 94141-9100, USA.


Human semen contains peptides capable of forming amyloid fibrils termed semen-derived enhancer of viral infection (SEVI) that can greatly increase human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. While SEVI appears to enhance virion attachment to target cells, its underlying mechanism of action is unknown. We now demonstrate that the intrinsic positive charges of SEVI (pI = 10.21) facilitate virion attachment to and fusion with target cells. A mutant form of SEVI in which lysines and arginines are replaced with alanines retains the ability to form amyloid fibrils but is defective in binding virions and enhancing infection. In addition, the interaction of wild-type SEVI with virions and the ability of these fibrils to increase infection are abrogated in the presence of various polyanionic compounds. These anionic polymers also decrease the enhancement of HIV infection mediated by semen. These findings suggest that SEVI enhances viral infection by serving as a polycationic bridge that neutralizes the negative charge repulsion that exists between HIV virions and target cells. Combinations of agents that neutrale SEVI action and produce HIV virucidal effects are an attractive future direction for microbicide development.

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