Host Cell Proteins Could Be HIV's Achilles' Heel

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Like all viruses, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) depends on its host cell to do much of its molecular dirty work as it promotes infection. Now, in a paper published online January 10, 2008, in Science Express, a team of researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has provided a detailed picture of just how extensively HIV exploits host cells' proteins.

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The new study, conducted by a team led by HHMI investigator Stephen J. Elledge of Harvard Medical School, identifies 273 host proteins that serve to keep the AIDS virus healthy and happy as it infects cells. More than 200 of these were not previously known to be needed by the virus during its life cycle. This new catalog of proteins could help researchers devise better treatment strategies to get around HIV's notorious propensity to develop resistance to antiviral drugs.

Elledge and Abraham Brass, a post-doctoral fellow in his lab, collaborated with Judy Leiberman and other Harvard Medical School scientists on the study. The hope, Elledge said, is that their data will give scientists a more complete picture of just how complicit the host cell is in the viral life cycle. "We wanted to get this information out to the field," Elledge said, noting that pharmaceutical companies are doing similar work privately. "We anticipate it will have a big impact

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