This article identifies two membrane bound proteins and how they effect HIV. The proteins, SERINC5 and SERINC3 are transmembrane proteins that exist in the host cells that HIV likes to attack (usually the immune systems fighter T cells). The researchers showed how HIV-Nef, a protein associated with the development of AIDS seems to counteract SERINC3 and SERINC5 lowering their expression and allowing the infection rate of HIV in the body to soar. Researchers are very excited about drugs that could potentially target and inhibit this HIV-Nef protein to help lower the efficiency of all enveloped virus’s. In fact, using this method the researchers, using proteomics to find where the viral DNA was located, found that it reduced the infectivity of HIV 100 fold. This means that compared to a normal patient with HIV, a patient who has had these cell surface proteins inhibited has 100 times less HIV DNA in their fighter T cells.
Scientists have known for twenty years that Nef plays an important role in the development of AIDS and these studies seem to finally give a glimpse into how Nef does this. With the Nef protein silenced, or even greatly reduced we could potentially stop the development of AIDS in people who have already been infected with HIV. Interestingly, the HIV virus only contains nine genes in the form of single stranded RNA. To reproduce and continue to infect other cells, the DNA virus needs to actually invade the cell and take over some of it’s machinery. In turn, one virion of HIV can multiply exponentially inside an organism. Nef, one of the nine genes, is responsible for sequestering the SERINC3 and SERINC5 transmembrane proteins so that they cannot reach the surface of the cell. With the Nef protein inactivated, the SERINC3 and SERINC5 proteins are able to reach the surface of the cell membrane. Somehow these proteins prevent the HIV from injecting it’s genome, effectively stopping the virus from spreading. Researcher’s are hoping that this Nef-activated mechanism is not specific to HIV, or even enveloped virus’ but might be a universal tool in the fight against all viral infections.