Due to the high genetic variability of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), treatment of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) patients with inhibitors of reverse trancriptase (RT) and drugs blocking the viral protease regularly results in the accumulation of drug resistant HIV variants and treatment failure. The sensitivity of clinically derived resistant HIV-1 strains to nucleotide RT inhibitors could be restored, however, in several laboratories by pharmacological depletion of the appropriate endogenous deoxynucleotide triphosphate (dNTP), and such a manipulation (induction of dCTP pool imbalance during reverse transcription in the presence of a non-nucleoside RT inhibitor) altered the mutation spectrum of the HIV-1 genome, resulting in a lower level of HIV resistance to certain drugs. The cytoplasmic singlestranded DNA cytidine deaminases APOBEC3G and APOBEC3F block HIV replication by introducing premature stop codons into the viral genome. We suggest that the resulting crippled, defective HIV (dHIV) variants could interfere with replication of "wild type" viruses and curbe disese progression in long term non-progressor individuals. Vif, an accessory protein encoded by HIV, counteracts APOBEC3G/F action. We speculate that small molecule inhibitors of Vif could permit lethal or sublethal mutagenesis of HIV genomes. We suggest that an artificial dHIV construct carrying a mutated vif gene (coding for a Vif protein unable to block APOBEC3G/F) could have a therapeutic effect as well in HIV infected individuals and AIDS patients.
Keywords: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), antiretroviral therapy, drug resistance, mutation spectrum, dNTP pool, APOBEC3G, Vif, defective HIV (dHIV)
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