HIV-1 uses CD4 and chemokine receptors as cofactors for cellular entry. The viral envelope transmembrane protein gp41 is thought to participate in viral fusion with CD4+ cells. We investigated whether gp41 interacts with chemokine receptors on human monocytes by testing its effect on the capacity of cells to respond to chemokine stimulation. Monocytes preincubated with gp41 of the MN strain showed markedly reduced binding, calcium mobilization, and chemotaxis in response to a variety of chemokines as well as to the bacterial peptide fMLP. This generalized inhibition of monocyte activation by chemoattractants required the presence of CD4, since the effect of gp41 was only observed in CD4+ monocytes and in HEK293 cells cotransfected with chemokine receptors and an intact CD4, but not a CD4 lacking its cytoplasmic domain. Confocal microscopy showed that gp41 caused internalization of CXCR4 in HEK293 cells provided they were also cotransfected with intact CD4. In addition, pretreatment of monocytes with protein kinase C inhibitors partially reversed the inhibitory effect of gp41. Thus, gp41, which had not previously been implicated as interacting with HIV-1 fusion cofactors, downregulates chemoattractant receptors on monocytes by a CD4-dependent pathway.
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