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J Cell Commun Signal. 2019 Jun;13(2):209-224. doi: 10.1007/s12079-018-0493-z. Epub 2018 Nov 15.

Myosin-X is essential to the intercellular spread of HIV-1 Nef through tunneling nanotubes.

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Biology Department, California State University Fresno, Fresno, 93740, USA.
HIV Dynamics and Replication Program, National Cancer Institute-Frederick, Frederick, MD, 21702, USA.
Biology Department, California State University Fresno, Fresno, 93740, USA.


Tunneling nanotubes (TNTs) are intercellular structures that allow for the passage of vesicles, organelles, genomic material, pathogenic proteins and pathogens. The unconventional actin molecular motor protein Myosin-X (Myo10) is a known inducer of TNTs in neuronal cells, yet its role in other cell types has not been examined. The Nef HIV-1 accessory protein is critical for HIV-1 pathogenesis and can self-disseminate in culture via TNTs. Understanding its intercellular spreading mechanism could reveal ways to control its damaging effects during HIV-1 infection. Our goal in this study was to characterize the intercellular transport mechanism of Nef from macrophages to T cells. We demonstrate that Nef increases TNTs in a Myo10-dependent manner in macrophages and observed the transfer of Nef via TNTs from macrophages to T cells. To quantify this transfer mechanism, we established an indirect flow cytometry assay. Since Nef expression in T cells down-regulates the surface receptor CD4, we correlated the decrease in CD4 to the transfer of Nef between these cells. Thus, we co-cultured macrophages expressing varying levels of Nef with a T cell line expressing high levels of CD4 and quantified the changes in CD4 surface expression resulting from Nef transfer. We demonstrate that Nef transfer occurs via a cell-to-cell dependent mechanism that directly correlates with the presence of Myo10-dependent TNTs. Thus, we show that Nef can regulate Myo10 expression, thereby inducing TNT formation, resulting in its own transfer from macrophages to T cells. In addition, we demonstrate that up-regulation of Myo10 induced by Nef also occurs in human monocyte derived macrophages during HIV-1 infection.


HIV-1 Nef; Intercellular transfer; Myo10; Myosin-X; TNTs; Tunneling nanotubes

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