AIDS: discovery of a new mechanism induced by HIV to modulate the immune system

Researchers from the Pasteur Institute and the CNRS* have revealed a novel mechanism utilized by the AIDS virus (HIV) to modulate the host immune response. They have shown that the virus substantially reduces contacts between the HIV-1 infected T lymphocytes and other cells of the immune system. These cells contacts are crucial to the triggering of adequate immune response. Their work is published in Immunity.



Press release
Paris,  june 6, 2006



The T lymphocytes, key cells in the immune system, need to come into contact with "antigen presenting cells" in order to trigger an immune response. The contact between these two cells is called an "immunological synapse".

Teams at the Pasteur Institute, led by Andrés Alcover, head of the Lymphocyte Cell Biology Unit, and by Olivier Schwartz, head of the Virus Immunity Group associated to the CNRS (URA 1930), have recently reported that this immunological synapse is a target for HIV-1.

Their work has shown that, in the T lymphocyte, HIV blocks the intracellular transport of molecules that are essential to immune synapse formation. Conclusion: contacts between the T lymphocytes and antigen presenting cells are altered. This modifies the T lymphocyte response.

The researchers have identified an HIV component, the viral protein called Nef, whose role is still poorly understood, as being responsible for this phenomenon.

Can we expect applications as a result of these advances? It is still too early to say but these researchers are continuing to decode the mechanism involved which may well, in time, offer up new therapeutic avenues to be explored.

This work was sponsored by the French National AIDS Research Agency, SIDACTION, League for the Prevention of Cancer-Paris Committee, CNRS, European Committee and Pasteur Institute.

* CNRS = French National Centre for Scientific Research
Sources :
" Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type-1 Infection Impairs the Formation of the Immunological Synapse" : Immunity. 24 mai 2006
Maria Isabel Thoulouze (1,2,3,4), Nathalie Sol-Foulon (3,5), Fabien Blanchet (3), Alice Dautry-Varsat (2), Olivier Schwartz (3,6)* et Andrés Alcover (1,2,6)*

1 Unité de Biologie Cellulaire des Lymphocytes, Institut Pasteur
2 Unité de Biologie des Interactions Cellulaires, unité de recherche associée au CNRS-2582, Institut Pasteur
3 Groupe Virus et Immunité, unité associée au CNRS-1930, Institut Pasteur
4 Unité de Virologie et Immunologie Moléculaires, INRA, Jouy-en-Josas
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