The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vpr gene encodes a protein which induces arrest of cells in the G2 phase of the cell cycle. Here, we demonstrate that following the arrest of cells in G2, Vpr induces apoptosis in human fibroblasts, T cells, and primary peripheral blood lymphocytes. Analysis of various mutations in the vpr gene revealed that the extent of Vpr-induced G2 arrest correlated with the levels of apoptosis. However, the alleviation of Vpr-induced G2 arrest by treatment with the drug pentoxifylline did not abrogate apoptosis. Together these studies indicate that induction of G2 arrest, but not necessarily continued arrest in G2, was required for Vpr-induced apoptosis to occur. Finally, Vpr-induced G2 arrest has previously been correlated with inactivation of the Cdc2 kinase. Some models of apoptosis have demonstrated a requirement for active Cdc2 kinase for apoptosis to occur. Here we show that accumulation of the hypophosphorylated or active form of the Cdc2 kinase is not required for Vpr- induced apoptosis. These studies indicate that Vpr is capable of inducing apoptosis, and we propose that both the initial arrest of cells and subsequent apoptosis may contribute to CD4 cell depletion in HIV-1 disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5579-5592
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1997


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