Tetherin restricts direct cell-to-cell infection of HIV-1

Björn D. Kuhl, Richard D. Sloan, Daniel A. Donahue, Tamara Bar-Magen, Chen Liang, Mark A. Wainberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Tetherin (BST-2/CD317/HM1.24) is an interferon (IFN)-inducible factor of the innate immune system, recently shown to exert antiviral activity against HIV-1 and other enveloped viruses by tethering nascent viral particles to the cell surface, thereby inhibiting viral release. In HIV-1 infection, the viral protein U (Vpu) counteracts this antiviral action by down-modulating tetherin from the cell surface. Viral dissemination between T-cells can occur via cell-free transmission or the more efficient direct cell-to-cell route through lipid raft-rich virological synapses, to which tetherin localizes.Results: We established a flow cytometry-based co-culture assay to distinguish viral transfer from viral transmission and investigated the influence of tetherin on cell-to-cell spread of HIV-1. Sup-T1 cells inducible for tetherin expression were used to examine the impact of effector and target cell tetherin expression on virus transfer and transmission. Using this assay, we showed that tetherin inhibits direct cell-to-cell virus transfer and transmission. Viral Vpu promoted viral transmission from tetherin-expressing cells by down-modulating tetherin from the effector cell surface. Further, we showed that tetherin on the target cell promotes viral transfer and transmission. Viral infectivity in itself was not affected by tetherin.Conclusion: In addition to inhibiting viral release, tetherin also inhibits direct cell-to-cell spread. Viral protein Vpu counteracts this restriction, outweighing its possible cost of fitness in cell-to-cell transmission. The differential role of tetherin in effector and target cells suggest a role for tetherin in cell-cell contacts and virological synapses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2010


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