The human APOBEC3 cytidine deaminases are potent inhibitors of diverse retroviruses, including human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1). HIV-1 Vif forms an E3 ubiquitin ligase complex with cullin 5 (CUL5), elongin B and elongin C, which promotes the polyubiquitination and degradation of APOBEC3 substrates. Here we demonstrate in human T cells that core binding factor β (CBF-β) is a key regulator of the evasion of HIV-1 from the host defence mediated by APOBEC3. CBF-β, the non-DNA-binding subunit of a heterodimeric transcription factor, regulates the folding and DNA-binding activity of partner RUNX family proteins, which have important roles in the development and differentiation of diverse cell types, including T lymphocytes. In our study, knockdown of endogenous CBF-β blocked Vif-induced APOBEC3G polyubiquitination and degradation. CBF-β was not required for the interaction between Vif and APOBEC3G, yet was essential for the assembly of the Vif-CUL5 E3-ubiquitin-ligase complex. CBF-β proved to be a unique regulator of primate lentiviral Vif and not a general component of the CUL5 E3 ubiquitin ligase. We show that Vif and CBF-β physically interact, and that the amino-terminal region of Vif is required for this interaction. Furthermore, interactions with Vif required regions in CBF-β that are not involved in RUNX protein binding. Considering the importance of the interaction between Vif and CBF-β, disrupting this interaction represents an attractive pharmacological intervention against HIV-1.
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