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Identification and characterization of naturally occurring splice variants of SAMHD1

Sarah Welbourn1, Eri Miyagi1, Tommy E White2, Felipe Diaz-Griffero2 and Klaus Strebel1*

Author Affiliations

1 Viral Biochemistry Section, Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH, Building 4, Room 310; 4 Center Drive, MSC 0460, Bethesda, MD, 20892-0460, USA

2 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine Bronx, New York, NY, 10461, USA

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Retrovirology 2012, 9:86  doi:10.1186/1742-4690-9-86

Published: 23 October 2012



Sterile Alpha Motif and HD domain-containing protein 1 (SAMHD1) is a recently identified host factor that restricts HIV-1 replication in dendritic and myeloid cells. SAMHD1 is a dNTPase that presumably reduces the cellular dNTP levels to levels too low for retroviral reverse transcription to occur. However, HIV-2 and SIV encoded Vpx counteracts the antiviral effects of SAMHD1 by targeting the protein for proteasomal degradation. SAMHD1 is encoded by a multiply spliced mRNA and consists of 16 coding exons.


Here, we identified two naturally occurring splice variants lacking exons 8–9 and 14, respectively. Like wildtype SAMHD1, both splice variants localize primarily to the nucleus, interact with Vpx, and retain some sensitivity to Vpx-dependent degradation. However, the splice variants differ from full-length SAMHD1 in their metabolic stability and catalytic activity. While full-length SAMHD1 is metabolically stable in uninfected cells, both splice variants were inherently metabolically unstable and were rapidly degraded even in the absence of Vpx. Vpx strongly increased the rate of degradation of full-length SAMHD1 and further accelerated the degradation of the splice variants. However, the effect of Vpx on the splice variants was more modest due to the inherent instability of these proteins. Analysis of dNTPase activity indicates that neither splice variant is catalytically active.


The identification of SAMHD1 splice variants exposes a potential regulatory mechanism that could enable the cell to control its dNTPase activity on a post-transcriptional level.

Vpx; SAMHD1; Splicing; Gene regulation