Human Enzyme Could Hold Key to New AIDS Drug
July 22, 2003
The "latest and most exciting developmen[t]" for scientists performing basic science research on HIV is the discovery that a protein produced by HIV enables the virus to overcome the human body's natural defenses against viruses such as HIV, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Specifically, the protein -- called Virion infectivity factor, or Vif -- inhibits the "powerful" human enzyme APOBEC3G, which in viruses similar to HIV interferes with the genetic components that the viruses use to replicate once inside a cell (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/21). Researchers Drs. Michael Malim of St. Thomas' School of Medicine at Kings College in London and Ann Sheehy of the University of Pennsylvania in July 2002 discovered that Vif suppresses CEM-15 -- an enzyme that they thought at the time was newly discovered -- allowing HIV to replicate and infect other cells. With a damaged version of Vif or a total lack of the gene that produces the protein, HIV is able to replicate. However, CEM-15 stops new HIV from exiting the cells in which they were made and thus unable to infect other cells, halting the spread of the virus within the body (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/15/02). Scientists later discovered that CEM-15 is actually the previously discovered enzyme APOBEC3G, which is thought to have evolved in mammals to fight lentiviruses -- the family of viruses of which HIV is a member.
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.