11 January 2008

273 proteins linked to HIV

Scientists have identified 273 human proteins required for HIV propagation, most of which have not been previously linked to HIV infection.

After screening thousands of genes, scientists from Boston have identified 273 human proteins required for HIV propagation - and most of these 'HIV-dependency factors' have not been previously linked to HIV infection.

Researches reported in the journal Science that it is probable these HIV-dependency factors play relevant roles in the process of HIV infection.

The newly identified HIV-dependency factors "participate in a broad array of cellular functions and implicate new pathways in the viral lifecycle," Dr Stephen J. Elledge of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital and colleagues report.

For example, they found "previously unknown roles" for human proteins in the entry, integration and transcription phases HIV passes through to infect a human cell.

What the study found
They also discovered that HIV-dependency factor genes were 'significantly enriched' for high expression in the immune cells that HIV attacks, suggesting to the team that viruses "evolve in cells that optimally perform the functions required for their lifecycle."

Elledge and colleagues point out that one of the key drug treatment strategies to combat HIV infection has been to simultaneously target multiple enzymes needed for HIV replication, to avoid the development drug resistance.

"We have taken a parallel strategy by identifying host factors required for the HIV life cycle," the researchers explain. These newly identified proteins "represent therapeutic targets that are not affected by the twin problems of viral diversity and escape mutations that interfere with the effectiveness of conventional antiretroviral drugs."

"We anticipate that HIV would be hard-pressed to evolve resistance to drugs targeting cellular proteins because it would have to evolve a new capability, not simply mutate a drug-binding site." – (ReutersHealth)

Read more:
HIV weak spot spotted
Clue to Aids immunity


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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