The biology of HIV assembly and viral transfer between T cells
During infection of human cells with HIV-1, the causative agent of AIDS, each viral protein interacts with and utilizes numerous cellular factors to propagate the infection. We are interested in understanding the complex cellular and molecular interactions that occur between virus and host during viral assembly. Recent studies have determined that unidentified host factors are directed by the viral Gag protein to play essential roles in virus assembly. These host factors allow HIV to assemble at the opportune time and location in the cell. HIV assembly is spatially regulated in infected T cells to facilitate transmission of virus between infected and uninfected cells. Adhesive structures between infected and uninfected cells called virological synapses tightly link the process of assembly to transfer of virus into uninfected cells. Our primary goal is to understand viral assembly and transmission are coordinated in the cell to facilitate the spread of HIV within the body. Our studies are designed to uncover key cellular factors and events in assembly and transmission during HIV infection. An understanding of virological synapse-mediated transfer will aid in the development of new drug, vaccine, and microbicide approaches.