The glucocorticoid receptor (GR) is a steroid receptor that regulates diverse functions, which include the immune response. In humans, the GR acts via binding to cortisol, resulting in the transcriptional modulation of key host genes. Several lines of evidence suggest that the host GR could be a key protein exploited by HIV at multiple levels to ensure its pathogenic success. Endogenous and therapeutic glucocorticoids play important roles in patients with HIV due to their well-established effects on immune function. AIDS patients develop glucocorticoid hypersensitivity, consistent with a mechanism involving an HIV-1-induced increase in expression or activity of the GR. Both the HIV-1 accessory protein Vpr and the host GR affect transcription of viral proteins from the long terminal repeat (LTR) region of the HIV-1 promoter. In addition, Vpr modulates host GR function to affect transcription of host genes, most likely via direct interaction with the GR. Vpr appears to regulate GR function by acting as a co-activator for the GR. Since both the GR and Vpr are involved in apoptosis in T cells and dendritic cells, crosstalk between these proteins may also regulate apoptosis in these and other cells. Given that cortisol is not the only ligand that activates the GR, other endogenous as well as synthetic GR ligands such as progestins may also modulate HIV pathogenesis, in particular in the cervicovaginal environment. Investigating the molecular determinants, ligand-selectivity and role in HIV pathogenesis of the GR–Vpr interaction may lead to new strategies for development of anti-HIV drugs.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 1, 2010
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