After infecting a susceptible cell, the human immunodeficiency virus hijacks that cells normal machinery to produce carbon copies of itself. New HIV particles roll off the cellular assembly lines, burst like bubbles out of the cell, and float off to invade other cellular factories. Vanderbilt University Medical Center investigators have now identified an early step in HIV particle assembly. The findings, published March 11 in Cell, could lead to new drugs that combat HIV infection by shutting down the viruss assembly lines.
For several years, Paul W. Spearman, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology & Immunology, and colleagues have been studying the assembly of HIV particles, specifically the distinct steps HIV structural proteins take in order to come together and create a viral particle. "The assembly process is just one part of the whole HIV life cycle," Spearman noted, "but its an important part in that each step along the way is required to make an infectious viral particle."
Spearmans team has focused on a protein called "Gag," the major HIV structural protein. In recent years, Spearman said, it has become apparent that Gag moves to a compartment in the cell called the multivesicular body, or late endosome. In some cell types, Gag and the HIV viral envelope protein form particles in the multivesicular body; in other cell types, Gag makes its way from this site to the cell membrane before assembling into particles.
Leigh MacMillan | EurekAlert!
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