Chemokine receptors and its importance in the replication cycle of human immunodeficiency virus: clinical and therapeutic implications.

J M Azevedo-Pereira, Q Santos-Costa


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection of host cells begins with binding of viral envelope (Env) surface (SU) glycoprotein to specific receptors present at plasma cell membrane. One of these receptors is the CD4 molecule which can be found namely in T-helper lymphocytes (T-CD4+), macrophages and dendritic cells. Binding of SU glycoprotein to CD4 molecule, enables HIV to adsorb to target cell membrane and also initiates conformational changes in SU glycoprotein that enable it to bind to a second receptor (coreceptor). This coreceptor belongs to a family of plasma cell membrane molecules that acts, in vivo, as chemokine receptors. The SU glycoprotein binding to coreceptor molecule triggers further conformational changes and consequently the exposure of a hydrophobic region of viral envelope transmembrane glycoprotein (TM), named fusion peptide that ultimately leads to viral envelope fusion with target cell membrane. Nowadays, 19 of these chemokine receptors have been thus considered, in vitro, as coreceptors for HIV. Interestingly, despite this extensive range of potential coreceptors, only CCR5 and CXCR4 seem to be relevant in HIV transmission and in the pathogenesis of HIV infection. Identification of cell surface coreceptors, specific for HIV envelope SU glycoprotein, has provided an elucidative explanation for molecular mechanisms involved in viral cell tropism and pathogenesis. Furthermore, the recognition of a coreceptor-mediated HIV's entry has also provided novel viral and cellular targets for antiretroviral intervention. During the last few years, the inhibition of HIV entry has become an incontestable target for anti-HIV drug discovery. Enfuvirtide is one example of these new antiretroviral molecules. It is the only member of fusion inhibitors targeting fusion peptide region, which prevents HIV entry by blocking the TM-mediated fusion between viral envelope and plasma cell membrane. More recently, CCR5-specific antagonists have been described, including monoclonal antibodies, modified chemokines and more importantly small-molecules inhibitors, such as maraviroc and vicriviroc. These drugs prevent SU glycoprotein binding to CCR5 coreceptor, and thus inhibiting HIV entry into target cell. This review will focus on the influence of coreceptor engagement, by HIV Env glycoproteins, in viral replication cycle and the importance of targeting its coreceptor function, by specific inhibitors, as a new and promising class of antiretrovirals.

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