The negative factor (nef) of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1 acts to down-regulate virus replication. To decipher the step in the virus life cycle affected by nef, functional proviral clones with (pHIV F-) or without (pHIV F+) a deletion mutation in the nef gene were constructed. In CD4+ cells, 30- to 50-fold more virus was produced over the course of 18-20 days with cultures infected with F- compared to F+ virus. In CD4- cell lines, 2- to 10-fold greater virus production was found from cultures transfected with pHIV F- than those transfected with pHIV F+. The negative regulatory effects of nef on pHIV F- could be supplied in trans with a plasmid expressing only the nef gene product. Virus produced by COS-1 cells transfected with pHIV F- or pHIV F+ showed similar binding, uptake, uncoating, and reverse transcription. Analysis of HIV-1 RNA and structural protein levels and rates of viral RNA synthesis in CD4- cells also showed 2- to 10-fold higher levels in cells transfected with pHIV F- compared to pHIV F+. The activity of a HIV-1 - chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) plasmid was also suppressed by nef, whereas other CAT plasmids were unaffected. These findings demonstrate that nef acts as a specific silencer of HIV-1 transcription. This activity may be critical for maintenance of HIV-1 latency in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1128-1132
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1989


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