HIV-1 Nef is a multifunctional accessory protein required for efficient viral pathogenesis. It was recently identified that the serine incorporators (SERINC) 3 and 5 are host restriction factors that decrease the infectivity of HIV-1 when incorporated into newly formed virions. However, Nef counteracts these effects by downregulating SERINC from the cell surface. Currently, there lacks a comprehensive study investigating the impact of primary Nef alleles on SERINC downregulation, as most studies to date utilize lab-adapted or reference HIV strains. In this thesis, I characterized and compared SERINC downregulation from >400 Nef alleles isolated from patients with distinct clinical outcomes and subtypes. I found that primary Nef alleles displayed a dynamic range of SERINC downregulation abilities, thus allowing naturally-occurring polymorphisms that modulate this activity to be identified. In addition, I found that Nef alleles isolated from patients with better clinical outcomes had a poorer ability to counteract SERINC, suggesting that variation in this activity may contribute to differences in HIV-1 pathogenesis.
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Thesis advisor: Brockman, Mark
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