Journal of medical virology 2017 05 13() doi 10.1002/jmv.24851
Several HIV-1 subtypes are co-circulating among various high-risk groups in China, and an increasing prevalence of CRF01_AE was observed among MSM (men who have sex with men) within recent years. Patients infected with CRF01_AE may experience a more rapid disease progression than patients infected with non-CRF01_AE; however, the underlying mechanisms remains elusive. HIV-1 Nef is a multifunctional protein and plays critical roles in viral pathogenesis. Nef downregulates CD4 and human leukocyte antigen (HLA) to promote viral transmission and escape from the host immune response. In this study, we investigated the CD4 downmodulation activity of Nef proteins isolated from HIV-1 CRF01_AE and analyzed a potential relationship of Nef’s capacity to downregulate CD4 with disease progression. We found that the majority of these Nefs from HIV-1 CRF01_AE efficiently downregulated CD4; Nefs with weaker CD4 downmodulation activity tended to be associated with higher CD4 levels and lower viral loads. Further elucidation revealed that amino acid residues at positions 3, 168 and 169 of CRF01_AE Nefs were associated with the capacity to downregulate CD4. Our data suggest that the capacity of Nef-mediated CD4 downregulation is not the only determinant for controlling disease progression, and other host and viral factors should be considered to explain the rapid disease progression of patients infected with HIV-1 CRF01_AE. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.