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Elife. 2019 Feb 5;8. pii: e41930. doi: 10.7554/eLife.41930.

HIV-1 Vpu is a potent transcriptional suppressor of NF-κB-elicited antiviral immune responses.

Author information

Institute of Molecular Virology, Ulm University Medical Center, Ulm, Germany.
Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, La Jolla, California, United States.
School of Life Sciences, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Contributed equally


Many viral pathogens target innate sensing cascades and/or cellular transcription factors to suppress antiviral immune responses. Here, we show that the accessory viral protein U (Vpu) of HIV-1 exerts broad immunosuppressive effects by inhibiting activation of the transcription factor NF-κB. Global transcriptional profiling of infected CD4 +T cells revealed that vpu-deficient HIV-1 strains induce substantially stronger immune responses than the respective wild type viruses. Gene set enrichment analyses and cytokine arrays showed that Vpu suppresses the expression of NF-κB targets including interferons and restriction factors. Mutational analyses demonstrated that this immunosuppressive activity of Vpu is independent of its ability to counteract the restriction factor and innate sensor tetherin. However, Vpu-mediated inhibition of immune activation required an arginine residue in the cytoplasmic domain that is critical for blocking NF-κB signaling downstream of tetherin. In summary, our findings demonstrate that HIV-1 Vpu potently suppresses NF-κB-elicited antiviral immune responses at the transcriptional level.


HIV-1; NF-κB; RNA-Seq; Vpu; human; immune activation; immunology; infectious disease; inflammation; microbiology; tetherin; virus

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