Scientists have discovered the hiding place of HIV in cells, an advance that may lead to new therapies to combat the deadly virus. Researchers at the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in Italy have photographed the structure of nucleic lymphocytes with a high-resolution microscopy technique to discover the "hiding place" of HIV.
It has been known for sometime that the virus inserts its own DNA into that of the cells that it infects so that it becomes part of their genetic patrimony. However, the reason why the virus chooses only some of the 20,000 human genes in which to integrate and, above all, how it manages to "hide" from therapeutic drugs inside these genes has remained, until now, a mystery. The researchers developed a high-resolution microscopy technique to visualise the integrated virus.
"Since the 2000s there had been databases of tens of thousands of human DNA sequences in which the HIV virus integrated, but for 15 years no one was able to discover what they had in common," ICGEB Director-General Mauro Giacca told news agency 'Xinhua'. "We have found that their common characteristic is being in the outer shell of the nucleus in close correspondence with the nuclear pore," Giacca said. This region, he said, contains a series of cellular genes characterised by factors that hide the presence of the HIV virus. In contrast, the virus strongly disfavours the regions in the nuclear lamin-associated domains and other regions located centrally in the nucleus.
The discovery shows the manner in which it is the very architecture of the nucleus of the lymphocytes and the areas that the HIV virus chooses to localise that assists its concealment, Giacca noted. The discovery could lead to the development of new AIDS drugs aimed at impeding the virus' integration into these regions by targeting proteins of the nuclear pore, he said. PTI