Viruses are completely dependent upon cellular machinery to support replication and have therefore developed strategies to co-opt cellular processes to optimize infection and counter host immune defenses. Many viruses, including human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), encode a relatively small number of genes. Viruses with limited genetic content often encode multifunctional proteins that function at multiple stages of the viral replication cycle. In this review, we discuss the functions of HIV-1 regulatory (Tat and Rev) and accessory (Vif, Vpr, Vpu, and Nef) proteins. Each of these proteins has a highly conserved primary activity; however, numerous additional activities have been attributed to these viral proteins. We explore the possibility that HIV-1 proteins leverage their multifunctional nature to alter host transcriptional networks to elicit a diverse set of cellular responses. Although these transcriptional effects appear to benefit the virus, it is not yet clear whether they are strongly selected for during viral evolution or are a ripple effect from the primary function. As our detailed knowledge of these viral proteins improves, we will undoubtedly uncover how the multifunctional nature of these HIV-1 regulatory and accessory proteins, and in particular their transcriptional functions, work to drive viral pathogenesis.
Keywords: host-pathogen interactions; human immunodeficiency virus; multifunctional proteins; transcription; virus replication.