The HIV-1 nef gene, essential for AIDS pathogenesis, encodes a 27-kDa protein (Nef) whose biochemical and biological functions are unclear. It has been suggested that Nef expression contributes to the T cell depletion observed during the disease by promoting their apoptosis. We report that in CD4+ human lymphoblastoid cell lines transfected with the nef cDNA obtained from three different HIV-1 strains, expression of the Nef protein enhances and accelerates the response to four unrelated apoptotic agents (staurosporine, anisomycin, camptothecin, and etoposide) but not to an anti-Fas agonist Ab. Nef reduces the expression of the anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL and induces a striking enhancement of apoptotic hallmarks, including mitochondrial depolarization, exposure of phosphatidylserine on the cell surface, activation of caspase-3, and cleavage of the caspase target poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase. Interestingly, the peptide Z-Val-Ala-DL-Asp-fluoromethylketone (a broad-spectrum caspase inhibitor) reduces, but does not abolish, phosphatidylserine exposure, suggesting that Nef also activates a caspase-independent apoptotic pathway. Surprisingly, Nef expression increases DNA degradation but without causing oligonucleosomal fragmentation. An increased apoptotic response and down-modulation of Bcl-2/Bcl-XL following Nef expression are observed also in NIH-3T3 fibroblasts. These data show that Nef enhances programmed cell death in different cell types by affecting multiple critical components of the apoptotic machinery independently from the Fas pathway.
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Journal of Immunology|
|Publication status||Published - Jan 1 2001|
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