The Accessory Factor Nef Links HIV-1 to Tec/Btk Kinases in an SH3 Domain-dependent Manner [Microbiology]

April 10th, 2014 by Tarafdar, S., Poe, J. A., Smithgall, T. E.

The HIV-1 Nef virulence factor interacts with multiple host cell signaling proteins. Nef binds to the SH3 domains of Src-family kinases, resulting in kinase activation important to viral infectivity, replication, and MHC-I downregulation. Itk and other Tec-family kinases are also present in HIV target cells, and Itk has been linked to HIV-1 infectivity and replication. However, the molecular mechanism linking Itk to HIV-1 is unknown. In this study, we explored the interaction of Nef with Tec-family kinases using a cell-based bimolecular fluorescence comple-mentation (BiFC) assay. In this approach, interaction of Nef with a partner kinase juxtaposes non-fluorescent YFP fragments fused to the C-terminus of each protein, resulting in YFP complementation and a bright fluorescent signal. Using BiFC, we observed that Nef interacts with the Tec family members Bmx, Btk, and Itk but not Tec or Txk. Interaction with Nef occurs through the kinase SH3 domains, and localizes to the plasma membrane. Allelic variants of Nef from all major HIV-1 subtypes interacted strongly with Itk in this assay, demonstrating the highly conserved nature of this interaction. A selective small molecule inhibitor of Itk kinase activity (BMS-509744) potently blocked wild-type HIV-1 infectivity and replication, but not that of a Nef-defective mutant. Nef induced constitutive Itk activation in transfected cells that was sensitive to inhibitor treatment. Taken together, these results provide the first evidence that Nef interacts with cytoplasmic tyrosine kinases of the Tec family, and suggest that Nef provides a mechanistic link between HIV-1 and Itk signaling in the viral life cycle.