A HIV-1 Tat mutant protein disrupts HIV-1 Rev function by targeting the DEAD-box RNA helicase DDX1

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© Lin et al. Background: Previously we described a transdominant negative mutant of the HIV-1 Tat protein, termed Nullbasic, that downregulated the steady state levels of unspliced and singly spliced viral mRNA, an activity caused by inhibition of HIV-1 Rev activity. Nullbasic also altered the subcellular localizations of Rev and other cellular proteins, including CRM1, B23 and C23 in a Rev-dependent manner, suggesting that Nullbasic may disrupt Rev function and trafficking by intervening with an unidentified component of the Rev nucleocytoplasmic transport complex. Results: To seek a possible mechanism that could explain how Nullbasic inhibits Rev activity, we used a proteomics approach to identify host cellular proteins that interact with Nullbasic. Forty-six Nullbasic-binding proteins were identified by mass spectrometry including the DEAD-box RNA helicase, DDX1. To determine the effect of DDX1 on Nullbasic-mediated Rev activity, we performed cell-based immunoprecipitation assays, Rev reporter assays and bio-layer interferometry (BLI) assays. Interaction between DDX1 and Nullbasic was observed by co-immunoprecipitation of Nullbasic with endogenous DDX1 from cell lysates. BLI assays showed a direct interaction between Nullbasic and DDX1. Nullbasic affected DDX1 subcellular distribution in a Rev-independent manner. Interestingly overexpression of DDX1 in cells not only restored Rev-dependent mRNA export and gene expression in a Rev reporter assay but also partly reversed Nullbasic-induced Rev subcellular mislocalization. Moreover, HIV-1 wild type Tat co-immunoprecipitated with DDX1 and overexpression of Tat could rescue the unspliced viral mRNA levels inhibited by Nullbasic in HIV-1 expressing cells. Conclusions: Nullbasic was used to further define the complex mechanisms involved in the Rev-dependent nuclear export of the 9kb and 4kb viral RNAs. All together, these data indicate that DDX1 can be sequestered by Nullbasic leading to destabilization of the Rev nucleocytoplasmic transport complex and decreased levels of Rev-dependent viral transcripts. The outcomes support a role for DDX1 in maintenance of a Rev nuclear complex that transports viral RRE-containing mRNA to the cytoplasm. To our knowledge Nullbasic is the first anti-HIV protein that specifically targets the cellular protein DDX1 to block Rev's activity. Furthermore, our research raises the possibility that wild type Tat may play a previously unrecognized but very important role in Rev function.




Lin, M. H., Sivakumaran, H., Jones, A., Li, D., Harper, C., Wei, T., … Harrich, D. (2014). A HIV-1 Tat mutant protein disrupts HIV-1 Rev function by targeting the DEAD-box RNA helicase DDX1. Retrovirology, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12977-014-0121-9

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