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J Biol Chem. 2003 Jul 11;278(28):25879-86. Epub 2003 May 8.

Activation of the ATR-mediated DNA damage response by the HIV-1 viral protein R.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Rochester Cancer Center, Rochester, New York 14642, USA.


DNA damage is a universal inducer of cell cycle arrest at the G2 phase. Infection by the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) also blocks cellular proliferation at the G2 phase. The HIV-1 accessory gene vpr encodes a conserved 96-amino acid protein (Vpr) that is necessary and sufficient for the HIV-1-induced block of cellular proliferation. In the present study, we examined a recently identified DNA damage-signaling protein, the ATM- and Rad3-related protein, ATR, for its potential role in the induction of G2 arrest by Vpr. We show that inhibition of ATR by pharmacological inhibitors, by expression of the dominant-negative form of ATR, or by RNA interference inhibits Vpr-induced cell cycle arrest. As with DNA damage, activation of ATR by Vpr results in phosphorylation of Chk1. This study provides conclusive evidence of activation of the ATR-initiated DNA damage-signaling pathway by a viral gene product. These observations are important toward understanding how HIV infection promotes cell cycle disruption, cell death, and ultimately, CD4+ lymphocyte depletion.

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