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J Virol. 2014 Jul;88(13):7645-58. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00550-14. Epub 2014 Apr 23.

Ezrin is a component of the HIV-1 virological presynapse and contributes to the inhibition of cell-cell fusion.

Author information

  • 1Graduate Program in Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont.
  • 2Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont.
  • 3Graduate Program in Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont College of Medicine and CALS, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont markus.thali@uvm.edu.

Abstract

During cell-to-cell transmission of HIV-1, viral and cellular proteins transiently accumulate at the contact zone between infected (producer) and uninfected (target) cells, forming the virological synapse. Rearrangements of the cytoskeleton in producer and target cells are required for proper targeting of viral and cellular components during synapse formation, yet little is known about how these processes are regulated, particularly within the producer cell. Since ezrin-radixin-moesin (ERM) proteins connect F-actin with integral and peripheral membrane proteins, are incorporated into virions, and interact with cellular components of the virological presynapse, we hypothesized that they play roles during the late stage of HIV-1 replication. Here we document that phosphorylated (i.e., active) ezrin specifically accumulates at the HIV-1 presynapse in T cell lines and primary CD4(+) lymphocytes. To investigate whether ezrin supports virus transmission, we sought to ablate ezrin expression in producer cells. While cells did not tolerate a complete knockdown of ezrin, even a modest reduction of ezrin expression (~50%) in HIV-1-producing cells led to the release of particles with impaired infectivity. Further, when cocultured with uninfected target cells, ezrin-knockdown producer cells displayed reduced accumulation of the tetraspanin CD81 at the synapse and fused more readily with target cells, thus forming syncytia. Such an outcome likely is not optimal for virus dissemination, as evidenced by the fact that, in vivo, only relatively few infected cells form syncytia. Thus, ezrin likely helps secure efficient virus spread not only by enhancing virion infectivity but also by preventing excessive membrane fusion at the virological synapse.

IMPORTANCE:

While viruses, in principal, can propagate through successions of syncytia, HIV-1-infected cells in the majority of cases do not fuse with potential target cells during viral transmission. This mode of spread is coresponsible for key features of HIV-1 pathogenesis, including killing of bystander cells and establishment of latently infected T lymphocytes. Here we identify the ERM protein family member ezrin as a cellular factor that contributes to the inhibition of cell-cell fusion and thus to suppressing excessive syncytium formation. Our analyses further suggest that ezrin, which connects integral membrane proteins with actin, functions in concert with CD81, a member of the tetraspanin family of proteins. Additional evidence, documented here and elsewhere, suggests that ezrin and CD81 cooperate to prevent cytoskeleton rearrangements that need to take place during the fusion of cellular membranes.

PMID:
24760896
PMCID:
PMC4054451
DOI:
10.1128/JVI.00550-14
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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