The Molecules of HIV

Note: this site last updated in 2006

Alters host cell gene expression

An article from "The Molecules of HIV" (c) Dan Stowell

When a virus successfully gains control of a cell it normally alters its host's gene expression, hijacking the cellular mechanisms towards the virus' own ends (e.g. building new virus particles). This is no different for HIV, which can change a cell's gene expression patterns within 30 minutes of infection.

Telling stories about viruses can be tricky: it's hard to say whether a specific change to host cell gene expression is "deliberate" or "incidental". (A virus obviously doesn't have any opinions of its own!) Cellular genes involved in T-cell signalling, protein trafficking, and regulation of transcription are affected when HIV invades a cell, and although these are experimentally verifiable, perhaps the key question we need to ask is: do these changes play a role in the course of HIV infection, either within a single cell or within a person?

Most of the changes are probably incidental. Literally hundreds of genes are downregulated, and literally hundreds are upregulated, during HIV infection, and most of these are probably side-effects of the changes which help HIV infection to progress.

We also need to ask: how does this change in gene expression occur? Studies have found that HIV Tat affects the expression of genes, downregulating most genes (see e.g. ).

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Written by
Dan Stowell

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