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J Virol. 1997 Mar;71(3):2535-9.

Induction of phosphorylation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 Nef and enhancement of CD4 downregulation by phorbol myristate acetate.

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Department of Virology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38101, USA.


The nef gene of the human and simian immunodeficiency viruses (HIV and SIV) encodes a 27 to 34 kDa myristoylated protein that induces downregulation of CD4 from the cell surface and enhances virus infectivity. As shown by experiments on SIV-infected adult macaques, Nef is important in pathogenesis and disease progression. In vitro, protein kinase C (PKC) phosphorylates Nef, but the role of phosphorylation in the function and expression of this protein has not yet been determined. Here we show that in HIV type 1-infected cells, phosphorylation of Nef increased 8- to 12-fold after treatment with phorbol myristate acetate and phytohemagglutinin (PMA/PHA). Basal and PMA/PHA-induced phosphorylation occurred on serine residues of Nef and was independent of other HIV proteins. The PMA/PHA-induced phosphorylation of Nef was inhibited by bisindolylmaleimide I, a potent and specific inhibitor of PKC, but was unaffected by H89, an inhibitor of protein kinase A. In contrast, treatment with bisindolylmaleimide I did not affect the basal level of Nef phosphorylation, suggesting two different phosphorylation pathways. A PMA-insensitive CD4 mutant in which three serine residues in the cytoplasmic domain have been replaced by alanines was used to determine whether PMA-induced phosphorylation affects Nef-induced CD4 downregulation. In Nef-expressing cells, treatment with PMA enhanced downregulation of the CD4 serine triple mutant from the cell surface, suggesting that phosphorylation is important for Nef function.

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