Summary: In order to improve understanding of how HIV-1 infection down-modulates cell surface membrane expression of CD4, we have measured several parameters of CD4 expression in the human tumor T-cell lines CEM and MOLT-4 at different times after infection. Three independent HIV-1 isolates were used including one that encodes a truncated nef protein and another that appeared to be noncytolytic against CEM. The level of CD4 mRNA, the rate of biosynthesis of CD4 protein, and the percentage of CD4-positive cells were measured. With each viral isolate it was found that infection led to a specific and almost complete inhibition of CD4 protein biosynthesis. This substantially exceeded, at every time point after infection, a concomitant reduction in CD4 mRNA. Hence an inhibition of translation probably accounts for much of the decline in the rate of CD4 biosynthesis. This implicates a novel selective translational inhibition of host gene expression by HIV-1 as a factor in the disappearance of surface membrane CD4 from infected cultures.
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