Iron overload down-regulates the expression of the HIV-1 Rev cofactor eIF5A in infected T lymphocytes

Carmine Mancone, Alessio Grimaldi, Giulia Refolo, Isabella Abbate, Gabriella Rozera, Dario Benelli, Gian Maria Fimia, Vincenzo Barnaba, Marco Tripodi, Mauro Piacentini, Fabiola Ciccosanti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Changes in iron metabolism frequently accompany HIV-1 infection. However, while many clinical and in vitro studies report iron overload exacerbates the development of infection, many others have found no correlation. Therefore, the multi-faceted role of iron in HIV-1 infection remains enigmatic. Methods: RT-qPCR targeting the LTR region, gag, Tat and Rev were performed to measure the levels of viral RNAs in response to iron overload. Spike-in SILAC proteomics comparing i) iron-treated, ii) HIV-1-infected and iii) HIV-1-infected/iron treated T lymphocytes was performed to define modifications in the host cell proteome. Data from quantitative proteomics were integrated with the HIV-1 Human Interaction Database for assessing any viral cofactors modulated by iron overload in infected T lymphocytes. Results: Here, we demonstrate that the iron overload down-regulates HIV-1 gene expression by decreasing the levels of viral RNAs. In addition, we found that iron overload modulates the expression of many viral cofactors. Among them, the downregulation of the REV cofactor eIF5A may correlate with the iron-induced inhibition of HIV-1 gene expression. Therefore, we demonstrated that eiF5A downregulation by shRNA resulted in a significant decrease of Nef levels, thus hampering HIV-1 replication. Conclusions: Our study indicates that HIV-1 cofactors influenced by iron metabolism represent potential targets for antiretroviral therapy and suggests eIF5A as a selective target for drug development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
JournalProteome Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 4 2017


  • HIV-1 infection
  • Iron overload
  • Spike-in SILAC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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