Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Overlapping effector interfaces define the multiple functions of the HIV-1 Nef polyproline helix

Lillian S Kuo2, Laura L Baugh2, Sarah J Denial1, Richard L Watkins1, Mingjie Liu1, J Victor Garcia1* and John L Foster1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Infectious Diseases, Center for AIDS Research, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599-7042, USA

2 Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Y9.206, Dallas, TX, 75390, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Retrovirology 2012, 9:47  doi:10.1186/1742-4690-9-47

Published: 31 May 2012



HIV-1 Nef is a multifunctional protein required for full pathogenicity of the virus. As Nef has no known enzymatic activity, it necessarily functions through protein-protein interaction interfaces. A critical Nef protein interaction interface is centered on its polyproline segment (P69VR

P78) which contains the helical SH3 domain binding protein motif, PXXPXR. We hypothesized that any Nef-SH3 domain interactions would be lost upon mutation of the prolines or arginine of PXXPXR. Further, mutation of the non-motif “X” residues, (Q73, V74, and L75) would give altered patterns of inhibition for different Nef/SH3 domain protein interactions.


We found that mutations of either of the prolines or the arginine of PXXPXR are defective for Nef-Hck binding, Nef/activated PAK2 complex formation and enhancement of virion infectivity (EVI). Mutation of the non-motif “X” residues (Q, V and L) gave similar patterns of inhibition for Nef/activated PAK2 complex formation and EVI which were distinct from the pattern for Hck binding. These results implicate an SH3 domain containing protein other than Hck for Nef/activated PAK2 complex formation and EVI. We have also mutated Nef residues at the N-and C-terminal ends of the polyproline segment to explore interactions outside of PXXPXR. We discovered a new locus GFP/F (G67, F68, P69 and F90) that is required for Nef/activated PAK2 complex formation and EVI.

MHC Class I (MHCI) downregulation was only partially inhibited by mutating the PXXPXR motif residues, but was fully inhibited by mutating the C-terminal P78. Further, we observed that MHCI downregulation strictly requires G67 and F68. Our mutational analysis confirms the recently reported structure of the complex between Nef, AP-1 μ1 and the cytoplasmic tail of MHCI, but does not support involvement of an SH3 domain protein in MHCI downregulation.


Nef has evolved to be dependent on interactions with multiple SH3 domain proteins. To the N- and C- terminal sides of the polyproline helix are multifunctional protein interaction sites. The polyproline segment is also adapted to downregulate MHCI with a non-canonical binding surface. Our results demonstrate that Nef polyproline helix is highly adapted to directly interact with multiple host cell proteins.

HIV-1; Nef; CD4; MHC class I; p21-activated protein kinase; Protein-protein interaction interface; SH3 domain