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PLoS Pathog. 2009 May;5(5):e1000450. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000450. Epub 2009 May 29.

Vpu antagonizes BST-2-mediated restriction of HIV-1 release via beta-TrCP and endo-lysosomal trafficking.

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Department of Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.


The interferon-induced transmembrane protein BST-2/CD317 (tetherin) restricts the release of diverse enveloped viruses from infected cells. The HIV-1 accessory protein Vpu antagonizes this restriction by an unknown mechanism that likely involves the down-regulation of BST-2 from the cell surface. Here, we show that the optimal removal of BST-2 from the plasma membrane by Vpu requires the cellular protein beta-TrCP, a substrate adaptor for a multi-subunit SCF E3 ubiquitin ligase complex and a known Vpu-interacting protein. beta-TrCP is also required for the optimal enhancement of virion-release by Vpu. Mutations in the DSGxxS beta-TrCP binding-motif of Vpu impair both the down-regulation of BST-2 and the enhancement of virion-release. Such mutations also confer dominant-negative activity, consistent with a model in which Vpu links BST-2 to beta-TrCP. Optimal down-regulation of BST-2 from the cell surface by Vpu also requires the endocytic clathrin adaptor AP-2, although the rate of endocytosis is not increased; these data suggest that Vpu induces post-endocytic membrane trafficking events whose net effect is the removal of BST-2 from the cell surface. In addition to its marked effect on cell-surface levels, Vpu modestly decreases the total cellular levels of BST-2. The decreases in cell-surface and intracellular BST-2 are inhibited by bafilomycin A1, an inhibitor of endosomal acidification; these data suggest that Vpu induces late endosomal targeting and partial degradation of BST-2 in lysosomes. The Vpu-mediated decrease in surface expression is associated with reduced co-localization of BST-2 and the virion protein Gag along the plasma membrane. Together, the data support a model in which Vpu co-opts the beta-TrCP/SCF E3 ubiquitin ligase complex to induce endosomal trafficking events that remove BST-2 from its site of action as a virion-tethering factor.

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