[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Specific short peptides derived from motifs found in full-length proteins, in our case HIV-1 Nef, not only retain their biological function, but can also competitively inhibit the function of the full-length protein. A set of 20 Nef scanning peptides, 20 amino acids in length with each overlapping 10 amino acids of its neighbor, were used to identify motifs in Nef responsible for its induction of apoptosis. Peptides containing these apoptotic motifs induced apoptosis at levels comparable to the full-length Nef protein. A second peptide, derived from the Secretion Modification Region (SMR) of Nef, retained the ability to interact with cellular proteins involved in Nef's secretion in exosomes (exNef). This SMRwt peptide was used as the "bait" protein in co-immunoprecipitation experiments to isolate cellular proteins that bind specifically to Nef's SMR motif. Protein transfection and antibody inhibition was used to physically disrupt the interaction between Nef and mortalin, one of the isolated SMR-binding proteins, and the effect was measured with a fluorescent-based exNef secretion assay. The SMRwt peptide's ability to outcompete full-length Nef for cellular proteins that bind the SMR motif, make it the first inhibitor of exNef secretion. Thus, by employing the techniques described here, which utilize the unique properties of specific short peptides derived from motifs found in full-length proteins, one may accelerate the identification of functional motifs in proteins and the development of peptide-based inhibitors of pathogenic functions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nef is secreted from infected cells in exosomes and is found in abundance in the sera of HIV-infected individuals. Secreted exosomal Nef (exNef) induces apoptosis in uninfected CD4⁺ T cells and may be a key component of HIV pathogenesis. The exosomal pathway has been implicated in HIV-1 virus release, suggesting a possible link between these two viral processes. However, the underlying mechanisms and cellular components of exNef secretion have not been elucidated. We have previously described a Nef motif, the secretion modification region (SMR; amino acids 66 to 70), that is required for exNef secretion. In silico modeling data suggest that this motif can form a putative binding pocket. We hypothesized that the Nef SMR binds a cellular protein involved in protein trafficking and that inhibition of this interaction would abrogate exNef secretion. By using tandem mass spectrometry and coimmunoprecipitation with a novel SMR-based peptide (SMRwt) that blocks exNef secretion and HIV-1 virus release, we identified mortalin as an SMR-specific cellular protein. A second set of coimmunoprecipitation experiments with full-length Nef confirmed that mortalin interacts with Nef via Nef's SMR motif and that this interaction is disrupted by the SMRwt peptide. Overexpression and microRNA knockdown of mortalin revealed a positive correlation between exNef secretion levels and mortalin protein expression. Using antibody inhibition we demonstrated that the Nef/mortalin interaction is necessary for exNef secretion. Taken together, this work constitutes a significant step in understanding the underlying mechanism of exNef secretion, identifies a novel host-pathogen interaction, and introduces an HIV-derived peptide with antiviral properties.
Full-text · Article · Jan 2012 · Journal of Virology