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J Virol. 1997 Jul;71(7):5495-504.

The kappaB sites in the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 long terminal repeat enhance virus replication yet are not absolutely required for viral growth.

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Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, USA.


The dependence of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) on its NF-kappaB binding sites (kappaB sites) for replication in transformed and primary T-cell targets was examined by infecting cells with HIV-1 reporter viruses containing kappaB site enhancer mutations. Viral transcription was measured either with luciferase-expressing HIV-1 that infects for a single round or by flow cytometric analyses with HIV-1 expressing placental alkaline phosphatase (PLAP) or green-fluorescent protein (GFP). Both PLAP- and GFP-expressing viruses spread from cell to cell and allowed analysis of viral gene expression patterns in single cells. Infection of a panel of T-cell lines with different basal levels of NF-kappaB demonstrated a direct correlation between the amount of constitutive nuclear NF-kappaB and the degree to which a wild-type virus outperformed kappaB site mutants. One T-cell line with a constitutively high level of nuclear NF-kappaB, PM1, showed a 20-fold decrease in transcription when its kappaB sites were mutated. In contrast, in a T-cell line with a low basal level of NF-kappaB, SupT1, mutation of the kappaB site in the enhancer had no effect on viral transcription or growth rate. Phytohemagglutinin-activated peripheral blood mononuclear cells showed a large dependence on the kappaB sites for optimal virus growth. Viruses without marker genes corroborated the finding that mutations to the kappaB sites impair virus production in cells with a high basal level of NF-kappaB. These data show that in T cells, HIV-1 can use NF-kappaB to enhance its growth but the virus is clearly able to grow in its absence.

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