The Human Immunodeficiency Virus -1 (HIV-1) Nef protein that was originally identified as a viral negative factor is a 27kDa myristoylated protein. However, this so called dispensable viral protein has emerged as one of the most important proteins for viral life cycle. Nef not only establishes the host cell environment suitable for viral replication and pathogenesis but also facilitates the progression of the infection into disease. Previous efforts have been focussed to explain how Nef down modulates host cell receptors like CD4 and MHC-1 molecules, thereby helping the virus to evade host defense and to increase viral infectivity. Nef also ably modulates specific processes like apoptosis in favour of viral life cycle other than being the stimulus for cell activation and signal transduction pathways. After much maligning over its reported positive or negative functions on the HIV-1 Long Terminal Repeat (LTR) promoter, the Nef protein is now perceived to enhance viral replication and infection through a combination of different effector functions. Recent reports emphasize a role for Nef in viral gene expression and place it in a prime position to oversee and optimize viral replication. Nef may do so by enhancing Tat mediated gene expression from the LTR by activating signalling pathways that result in a concomitant increase in the activation of general transcription factors, and also by mediating translocation of repression factors from the nucleus. Thus, Nef not only enhances infection but also plays an important role in viral replication and pathogenesis.
Keywords: hiv-1, nef, ltr, gene expression, replication, pathogenesis
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