HIV-1 Nef disables MHC-1 and CD4 cells inside infected cells, according to PloS Pathogens article.

Scientists from the University of Michigan have determined how a particular HIV protein helps the virus evade the immune system. Research of HIV-1 Nef, a protein known to keep immune system cells from doing their normal job, has shown how the protein disables two key factors inside an infected cell.

The first, a molecule called major histocompatability complex 1 (MHC-1), is a protein that presents HIV antigens to the immune system. The second factor is CD4, a cell-surface receptor that normally locks onto a virus and allows it to enter the cell.

The team found that HIV-1 Nef places MHC-1 proteins into an infected cell’s “trash bin,” keeping the helper proteins from alerting T lymphocytes about the virus. Once inside a cell, HIV-1 Nef also destroys CD4, encouraging the virus to spread to uninfected cells.

The investigators are now screening drug candidates to find promising HIV-1 Nef inhibitors. The current study is published in PLoS Pathogens.

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