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The TAR RNA binding protein, TRBP, is a cellular double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) binding protein that can promote the replication of HIV-1 through interactions with the viral TAR element as well as with cellular proteins that affect the efficiency of translation of viral transcripts. The structured TAR element, present on all viral transcripts, can impede efficient translation either by sterically blocking access of translation initiation factors to the 5'-cap or by activating the dsRNA-dependent kinase, PKR. Several mechanisms by which TRBP can facilitate translation of viral transcripts have been proposed, including the binding and unwinding of TAR and the suppression of PKR activation. Further, TRBP has been identified as a cofactor of Dicer in the processing of microRNAs (miRNAs), and sequestration of TRBP by TAR in infected cells has been proposed as a viral countermeasure to potential host cell RNA interference-based antiviral activities. Here, we have addressed the relative importance of these various roles for TRBP in HIV-1 replication. Using Jurkat T cells, primary human CD4(+) T cells, and additional cultured cell lines, we show that depletion of TRBP has no effect on viral replication when PKR activation is otherwise blocked. Moreover, the presence of TAR-containing mRNAs does not affect the efficacy of cellular miRNA silencing pathways. These results establish that TRBP, when expressed at physiological levels, promotes HIV-1 replication mainly by suppressing the PKR-mediated antiviral response, while its contribution to HIV-1 replication through PKR-independent pathways is minimal.


Viraj R Sanghvi, Laura F Steel. The cellular TAR RNA binding protein, TRBP, promotes HIV-1 replication primarily by inhibiting the activation of double-stranded RNA-dependent kinase PKR. Journal of virology. 2011 Dec;85(23):12614-21

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PMID: 21937648

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