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Virology. 1998 Apr 25;244(1):27-38.

NF-kappaB protects HIV-1-infected myeloid cells from apoptosis.

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Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


HIV-1 infection of primary monocytic cells and myeloid cell lines results in sustained NF-kappaB activation. Recently, NF-kappaB induction has been shown to play a role in protecting cells from programmed cell death. In the present study, we sought to investigate whether constitutive NF-kappaB activity in chronically HIV-1-infected promonocytic U937 (U9-IIIB) and myeloblastic PLB-985 (PLB-IIIB) cells affects apoptotic signaling. TNFalpha and cycloheximide caused infected cells to undergo apoptosis more rapidly than parental U937 and PLB-985 cells. Inhibition of TNFalpha-induced NF-kappaB activation using the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) resulted in increased apoptosis in both U937 and U9-IIIB cells, while preactivation of NF-kappaB with the non-apoptotic inducer IL-1beta caused a relative decrease in apoptosis. Inhibition of constitutive NF-kappaB activity in U9-IIIB and PLB-IIIB cells also induced apoptosis, suggesting that NF-kappaB protects cells from a persistent apoptotic signal. TNFalpha plus NAC treatment resulted in a marked decrease in Bcl-2 protein levels in HIV-1-infected cells, coupled with an increase in Bax protein compared to uninfected cells, suggesting that the difference in susceptibility to TNFalpha-induced apoptosis may relate to the differences in relative levels of Bcl-2 and Bax. The protective role of NF-kappaB in blocking TNFalpha- and HIV-1-induced apoptosis was supported by studies in Jurkat T cells engineered to express IkappaB alpha repressor mutants (TD-IkappaB) under the control of a tetracycline-responsive promoter. Cells underwent apoptosis in response to TNFalpha only when NF-kappaB activation was inhibited by TD-IkappaB expression. As was observed for the U9-IIIB cells, TNFalpha treatment also induced a marked decrease in Bcl-2 protein levels in TD-IkappaB expressing cells. These experiments demonstrate that apoptotic signaling is perturbed in HIV-1-infected U9-IIIB cells and indicate that NF-kappaB activation may play an additional protective role against HIV-1-induced apoptosis in myeloid cells.

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