Exploring Cell Proteins That Block HIV
By Jeffrey Laurence, M.D.
Evolution has insured that many mammals—from mice to humans—have cell proteins that can prevent infection by certain viruses, including HIV. One of the most potent of these proteins, identified two decades ago, is APOBEC3G. Unfortunately for humans, HIV has evolved protection—a viral protein that prevents APOBEC3G from attacking HIV in humans, though not in other species.
However, there are other proteins being studied. One is SERINC5, which can attack HIV and a related mouse virus, MLV, in the test tube. Its potency is limited by a countermeasure incorporated into HIV—the Nef protein—but it is unknown whether the antivirus activity of SERINC5 works in the body.
Researchers genetically engineered mice to delete SERINC5. Mice lacking the protein had higher levels of virus, demonstrating that SERINC5 could block MLV activity in the mouse. The researchers identified sites on the virus that made it susceptible to SERINC5 attack.
The authors concluded that their findings may help guide development of drugs that target SERINC5 during HIV and related viral infections.
amfAR was a funder of this study.
Dr. Laurence is amfAR’s senior scientific consultant.