Human and simian immunodeficiency virus (HIV and SIV, respectively) infections are characterized by gradual depletion of CD4+ T cells. The underlying mechanisms of CD4+ T-cell depletion and HIV and SIV persistence are not fully determined. The Nef protein is expressed early in infection and is necessary for pathogenesis. Nef can cause T-cell activation and downmodulates cell surface signaling molecules. However, the effect of Nef on the cell cycle has not been well characterized. To determine the role of Nef in the cell cycle, we investigated whether the SIV Nef protein can modulate cell proliferation and apoptosis in CD4+ Jurkat T cells. We developed a CD4+ Jurkat T-cell line that stably expresses SIV Nef under the control of an inducible promoter. Alterations in cell proliferation were determined by flow cytometry using stable intracytoplasmic fluorescent dye 5- and 6-carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester and bromodeoxyuridine incorporation. Apoptotic cell death was measured by annexin V and propidium iodide staining. Our results demonstrated that SIV Nef inhibited Fas-induced apoptosis in these cells and that the mechanism involved upregulation of the Bcl-2 protein. SIV Nef suppressed CD4+ T-cell proliferation by inhibiting the progression of cells into S phase of the cell cycle. Suppression involved an upregulation of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors p21 and p27 and the downregulation of cyclin D1 and cyclin A. In summary, inhibition of apoptosis by Nef can lead to persistence of infected cells and can support viral replication. In addition, a Nef-mediated delay in cell cycle progression may contribute to CD4+ T-cell anergy/depletion seen in HIV and SIV disease.
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