School of Medicine researcher Mingui Fu, Ph.D., assistant professor of basic medical science, has teamed up with University of Pittsburgh researcher Tianyi Wang, Ph.D., to identify a protein in the human body that could be a powerful barrier against HIV-1 infection, which could lead to innovative treatments for AIDS.
A journal article, “MCPIP1 restricts HIV infection and is rapidly degraded in activated CD4+ T cells,” published Nov. 4 on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States describes the findings accumulated from the collaborative work of Fu and 14 other scientists from five universities in the United States and China.
“It has long been known that HIV-1 prefers to infect activated T cells, but not quiescent T cells,” Fu said. “The reason is that the quiescent T cells possess cellular factors that limit HIV-1 infection.”
Working in collaboration with Wang’s lab, Fu had a hand in uncovering a protein called MCPIP1 that the researchers believe are those very cellular factors in inactive T cells that restrict HIV infection.
Although MCPIP1 is abundant in inactive T cells, Fu said it rapidly loses its HIV-resistant properties when those cells are activated. Fu said the findings suggest that MCPIP1 could be a potent barrier against HIV-1 infection.
“These findings provide insights into the mechanisms of the cellular activation-mediated HIV-1 production in T cells and may help to develop novel treatment for AIDS patients,” Fu said.