Directed expression of the HIV-1 accessory protein Vpu in Drosophila fat-body cells inhibits Toll-dependent immune responses.
Human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) expresses several accessory proteins that manipulate various host-cell processes to achieve optimum replicative efficiency. One of them, viral protein U (Vpu), has been shown to interfere with the cellular degradation machinery through interaction with SCF(beta-TrCP) complexes. To learn more about Vpu function in vivo, we used the genetically tractable fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Our results show that the directed expression of Vpu, but not the non-phosphorylated form, Vpu2/6, in fat-body cells affects Drosophila antimicrobial responses. In flies, the Toll and Imd pathways regulate antimicrobial-peptide gene expression. We show that Vpu specifically affects Toll pathway activation by inhibiting Cactus degradation. Given the conservation of the Toll/nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kappa B) signalling pathways between flies and mammals, our results suggest a function for Vpu in the inhibition of host NF-kappa B-mediated innate immune defences and provide a powerful genetic approach for studying Vpu inhibition of NF-kappa B signalling in vivo.