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From promoting to inhibiting: diverse roles of helicases in HIV-1 Replication

Rene-Pierre Lorgeoux13, Fei Guo4 and Chen Liang123*

Author Affiliations

1 McGill AIDS Centre, Lady Davis Institute-Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, H3T 1E2, Quebec, Canada

2 Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, H3A 2B4, Quebec, Canada

3 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, McGill University, Montreal, H3A 2B4, Quebec, Canada

4 Institute of Pathogen Biology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, 100730, China

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Retrovirology 2012, 9:79  doi:10.1186/1742-4690-9-79

Published: 28 September 2012


Helicases hydrolyze nucleotide triphosphates (NTPs) and use the energy to modify the structures of nucleic acids. They are key players in every cellular process involving RNA or DNA. Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) does not encode a helicase, thus it has to exploit cellular helicases in order to efficiently replicate its RNA genome. Indeed, several helicases have been found to specifically associate with HIV-1 and promote viral replication. However, studies have also revealed a couple of helicases that inhibit HIV-1 replication; these findings suggest that HIV-1 can either benefit from the function of cellular helicases or become curtailed by these enzymes. In this review, we focus on what is known about how a specific helicase associates with HIV-1 and how a distinct step of HIV-1 replication is affected. Despite many helicases having demonstrated roles in HIV-1 replication and dozens of other helicase candidates awaiting to be tested, a deeper appreciation of their involvement in the HIV-1 life cycle is hindered by our limited knowledge at the enzymatic and molecular levels regarding how helicases shape the conformation and structure of viral RNA-protein complexes and how these conformational changes are translated into functional outcomes in the context of viral replication.

HIV-1; helicase; RNP