Scientists have discovered that a protein produced by human cells fights HIV by introducing 'errors' into the virus's DNA code when it reproduces. The findings may contribute towards developing anti-HIV drugs that exploit the body's own defence system against the disease.
Last year, London-based researchers identified the human gene CEM15, which codes for a protein, APOBEC3G, that defends the body against HIV (see Scientists discover new target for HIV drugs [link to article NW183]). They also found that HIV can avoid this defence mechanism by producing a protein, known as Vif, that inhibits the human protein, enabling the virus to live and replicate inside cells.
But until now, no one knew exactly how the human protein worked. In this week's issue of Nature, two groups of researchers reveal that it hampers the reproduction of HIV by changing the sequence of the virus's DNA.
Link to Nature News and Views article "Good to CU" by Yapeng Gu and Wesley I. Sundquist
Link to research paper in Nature by Hui Zhang et al
Link to research paper in Nature by Bastien Mangeat et al
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