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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 5:30 EDT

Sugar-Binding Protein May Play A Role In HIV Infection

June 15, 2011

Specific types of “helper” T cells that are crucial to maintaining functioning immune systems contain an enzyme called PDI (protein disulfide isomerase). This enzyme affects how proteins fold into specific shapes, which in turn influences how the T cells behave. PDI also plays a role in HIV infection by helping to change the shape of the surface envelope protein of the virus, enabling the virus to interact optimally with receptors on the T cells, such as the CD4 molecule.

Though it is known that PDI inhibitors can prevent HIV infection, just how this happens has remained a mystery. And though it has been known that PDI, which normally lives inside the cell, can become entrapped on the cell’s surface, it has not been understood how this happens.

Now, in a new study, UCLA researchers report that a sugar-binding protein called galectin-9 traps PDI on T-cells’ surface, making them more susceptible to HIV infection.

IMPACT: The findings could lead researchers to a potential new target for anti-HIV therapeutics, such as therapies to inhibit PDI or galectin-9.

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