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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2009 Jun;7(6):467-76. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2111. Epub 2009 Mar 23.

Is the high virulence of HIV-1 an unfortunate coincidence of primate lentiviral evolution?

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  • 1Institute of Virology, University Clinic of Ulm, Germany.


In the subset of primate lentiviruses that contain a vpu gene - HIV-1 and its simian precursors - the Nef protein has lost the ability to down-modulate CD3, block T cell activation and suppress programmed death. Vpu counteracts a host restriction factor induced by the inflammatory cytokine interferon-alpha. I propose that the acquisition of vpu may have allowed the viral lineage that gave rise to HIV-1 to evolve towards greater pathogenicity by removing the selective pressure for a protective Nef function that prevents damagingly high levels of immune activation.

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