Scientists discover human (host) protein with strong HIV implications

The body’s innate immune response begins by producing a flurry of chemicals. | File photo
University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) scientists recently announced they have identified a new human (host) protein that potentially weakens the body’s immune response to HIV as well as other viruses.

The research was published in Cell Host & Microbe last week. The findings seem to imply a trend for improving antiviral therapies related to HIV, creating more effective viral vaccines and advancing an improved cancer treatment.

"Our study provides critical insight on a paramount issue in HIV research: Why is the body unable to mount an efficient immune response to HIV to prevent transmission?" study co-author Sumit Chanda, director of SBP's Immunity and Pathogenesis Program, said. "This research shows that the host protein NLRX1 is responsible --it's required for HIV infection and works by repressing the innate immune response."

The body’s innate immune response begins by producing a flurry of chemicals (interferons and cytokines) that direct cytotoxic T cells to attack and destroy pathogens. It is becoming increasingly clear to scientists that a quick and powerful innate immune response is a very necessary element for controlling HIV infection, and actually works to improve the effectiveness of vaccines.

"Importantly, we were able to show that deficiencies in NLRX1 reduce HIV replication, suggesting that the development of small molecules to modulate the innate immune response may inhibit viral transmission and promote immunity to infection," Chanda said. "We anticipate expanding our research to identify NLRX1 inhibitors."

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Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute 10901 N Torrey Pines Rd La Jolla, CA - 92037-1005

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