Recent observations imply that HIV-1 infection induces chromosomal DNA damage responses. However, the precise molecular mechanism and biological relevance are not fully understood. Here, we report that HIV-1 infection causes double-strand breaks in chromosomal DNA. We further found that Vpr, an accessory gene product of HIV-1, is a major factor responsible for HIV-1-induced double-strand breaks. The purified Vpr protein promotes double-strand breaks when incubated with isolated nuclei, although it does not exhibit endonuclease activity in vitro. A carboxyl-terminally truncated Vpr mutant that is defective in DNA-binding activity is less capable of Vpr-dependent double-strand break formation in isolated nuclei. The data suggest that double-strand breaks induced by Vpr depend on its DNA-binding activity and that Vpr may recruit unknown nuclear factor(s) with positive endonuclease activity to chromosomal DNA. This is the first direct evidence that Vpr induces double-strand breaks in HIV-1-infected cells. We discuss the possible roles of Vpr-induced DNA damage in HIV-1 infection and the involvement of Vpr in further acquired immunodeficiency syndrome-related tumor development.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research