Background: Lipid rafts are currently an intensely investigated topic of cell biology. In addition to a demonstrated role in signal transduction of the host cell, lipid rafts serve as entry and exit sites for microbial pathogens and toxins, such as FimH-expressing enterobacteria, influenza virus, measles virus and cholera toxin. Furthermore, caveolae, a specialised form of lipid raft, are required for the conversion of the non-pathogenic prion protein to the pathogenic scrapie isoform.
Objectives: A number of reports have shown, directly or indirectly, that lipid rafts are important at various stages of the human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) replication cycle. The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief overview of the role of membrane-associated lipid rafts in cell biology, and to evaluate how HIV-1 has hijacked this cellular component to support HIV-1 replication. Special sections are devoted to discussing the role of lipid rafts in (1) the entry of HIV-1, (2) signal transduction regulation in HIV-1-infected cells, (3) the trafficking of HIV-1 proteins via lipid rafts during HIV-1 assembly; and a further section discusses the role of cholesterol in mature HIV-1.
Summary: Like a number of other pathogens, HIV-1 has evolved to rely on the host cell lipid rafts to support its propagation during multiple stages of the HIV-1 replication cycle. This review has highlighted the importance of lipid rafts in HIV-1 replication.