Monday, October 01, 2007

Micro-managing HIV replication

Cellular microRNAs could help HIV persist by shutting off viral replication and contributing to latency, suggests a paper online in Nature Medicine this week.

HIV can hide out in cells in a dormant state called latency. Antiviral drugs target replicating virus, so latency is a large barrier to virus eradication.

Hui Zhang and colleagues identified a cluster of microRNAs that interact with a region of the HIV genome, shutting off viral gene expression. These microRNAs are enriched in so-called resting CD4 T cells—the main cell type that harbours latent HIV. The authors treated resting CD4 T cells from HIV infected patients with a combination of specific inhibitors of the microRNAs and showed that after such treatment the cells were able to generate 10 times more HIV. Interfering with the function of these suppressive microRNAs might therefore provide a new way to flush HIV out of hiding.
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