The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) evades the immune responses of natural killer (NK) cells through mechanisms that have been partially deciphered. Here we show that in HIV-1-infected T lymphocytes, the early viral Nef protein downmodulates PVR (CD155, Necl-5), a ligand for the activating receptor DNAM-1 (CD226) expressed by all NK cells, CD8+ T cells, and other cell types. This novel Nef activity is conserved by Nef proteins of laboratory HIV-1 strains (NL4-3, SF2) and of a patient-derived virus, but it is not maintained by HIV-2. Nef uses the same motifs to downregulate PVR and HLA-I molecules, likely by the same mechanisms. Indeed, as previously demonstrated for HLA-I, Nef reduces the total amounts of cell-associated PVR. Optimal downregulation of cell surface PVR by Nef also requires the presence of the late viral factor Vpu. In line with PVR reduction, the NK cell-mediated lysis of T cells infected by a wild-type but not Nef-deficient virus is virtually abrogated upon blocking of both DNAM-1 and another activating receptor, NKG2D, previously shown to mediate killing of HIV-infected cells. Together, these data demonstrate that the PVR downmodulation by Nef and Vpu is a strategy evolved by HIV-1 to prevent NK cell-mediated lysis of infected cells. The PVR downregulation reported here has the potential to affect the immune responses of other DNAM-1-positive cells besides NK cells and to alter multiple PVR-mediated cellular processes, such as adhesion and migration, and may thus greatly influence HIV-1 pathogenesis.
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