Friday, December 10, 2004

Monkey Protein Blocks HIV

The ideal candidates, Old World monkeys such as rhesus macaques, are not susceptible to HIV, although they are vulnerable to the monkey version of the virus, known as simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV).

For years, AIDS researchers have struggled with the lack of a good animal model of HIV infection. The ideal candidates, Old World monkeys such as rhesus macaques, are not susceptible to HIV, although they are vulnerable to the monkey version of the virus, known as simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). Scientists have suspected for some time that monkeys respond to HIV by producing a factor that stops the virus in its tracks. Now they have pinpointed this natural HIV blocker.

In a paper published today in the journal Nature, Joseph Sodroski of Harvard University and his colleagues identify this factor as a protein called TRIM5-alpha. Preventing TRIM5-alpha activity in monkey cells made infection with HIV possible, the researchers report, whereas adding the protein to human cells prevented HIV from taking hold. The protein may function by inhibiting the virus’s ability to shed its protective coating, which must be removed before the virus can replicate.

Story here.

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