Vif counteracts the host restriction factor APOBEC3G (A3G) and other APOBEC3s by preventing the incorporation of A3G into progeny virions. We previously identified Vif mutants with a dominant-negative (D/N) phenotype that interfered with the function of wild-type Vif, inhibited the degradation of A3G, and reduced the infectivity of viral particles by increased packaging of A3G. However, the mechanism of interference remained unclear, in particular since all D/N Vif mutants were unable to bind Cul5 and some mutants additionally failed to bind A3G, ruling out competitive binding to A3G or the E3 ubiquitin ligase complex as the sole mechanism. The goal of the current study was to revisit the mechanism of D/N interference by Vif mutants and analyze the possible involvement of core binding factor beta (CBFβ) in this process. We found a clear correlation of D/N properties of Vif mutants with their ability to engage CBFβ. Only mutants that retained the ability to bind CBFβ exhibited the D/N phenotype. Competition studies revealed that D/N Vif mutants directly interfered with the association of CBFβ and wild-type Vif. Furthermore, overexpression of CBFβ counteracted the interference of D/N Vif mutants with A3G degradation by wild-type Vif. Finally, overexpression of Runx1 mimicked the effect of D/N Vif mutants and inhibited the degradation of A3G by wild-type Vif. Taken together, we identified CBFβ as the key player involved in D/N interference by Vif.IMPORTANCE Of all the accessory proteins encoded by HIV-1 and other primate lentiviruses, Vif has arguably the strongest potential as a target for antiviral therapy. This conclusion is based on the observation that replication of HIV-1 in vivo is critically dependent on Vif. Thus, inhibiting the function of Vif via small-molecule inhibitors or other approaches has significant therapeutic potential. We previously identified dominant-negative (D/N) Vif variants whose expression interferes with the function of virus-encoded wild-type Vif. We now show that D/N interference involves competitive binding of D/N Vif variants to the transcriptional cofactor core binding factor beta (CBFβ), which is expressed in cells in limiting quantities. Overexpression of CBFβ neutralized the D/N phenotype of Vif. In contrast, overexpression of Runx1, a cellular binding partner of CBFβ, phenocopied the D/N Vif phenotype by sequestering endogenous CBFβ. Thus, our results provide proof of principle that D/N Vif variants could have therapeutic potential.
Keywords: APOBEC3G; CBFβ; Vif; dominant-negative; interference.
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