HIV-1 Nef counteracts autophagy restriction by enhancing the association between BECN1 and its inhibitor BCL2 in a PRKN-dependent manner

Macroautophagy/autophagy is an auto-digestive pro-survival pathway activated in response to stress to target cargo for lysosomal degradation. In recent years, autophagy has become prominent as an innate antiviral defense mechanism through multiple processes, such as targeting virions and viral components for elimination. These exciting findings have encouraged studies on the ability of autophagy to restrict HIV. However, the role of autophagy in HIV infection remains unclear. Whereas some reports indicate that autophagy is detrimental for HIV, others have claimed that HIV deliberately activates this pathway to increase its infectivity. Moreover, these contrasting findings seem to depend on the cell type investigated. Here, we show that autophagy poses a hurdle for HIV replication, significantly reducing virion production. However, HIV-1 uses its accessory protein Nef to counteract this restriction. Previous studies have indicated that Nef affects autophagy maturation by preventing the fusion between autophagosomes and lysosomes. Here, we uncover that Nef additionally blocks autophagy initiation by enhancing the association between BECN1 and its inhibitor BCL2, and this activity depends on the cellular E3 ligase PRKN. Remarkably, the ability of Nef to counteract the autophagy block is more frequently observed in pandemic HIV-1 and its simian precursor SIVcpz infecting chimpanzees than in HIV-2 and its precursor SIVsmm infecting sooty mangabeys. In summary, our findings demonstrate that HIV-1 is susceptible to autophagy restriction and define Nef as the primary autophagy antagonist of this antiviral process.

Abbreviations: 3-MA: 3-methyladenine; ACTB: actin, beta; ATG16L1: autophagy related 16 like 1; BCL2: bcl2 apoptosis regulator; BECN1: beclin 1; cDNA: complementary DNA; EGFP: enhanced green fluorescence protein; ER: endoplasmic reticulum; Gag/p55: group-specific antigen; GFP: green fluorescence protein; GST: glutathione S transferase; HA: hemagglutinin; HIV: human immunodeficiency virus; IP: immunoprecipitation; MAP1LC3B/LC3B: microtubule associated protein 1 light chain 3 beta; Nef: negative factor; PRKN: parkin RBR E3 ubiquitin ligase; PtdIns3K: phosphatidylinositol 3 kinase; PtdIns3P: phosphatidylinositol 3 phosphate; PTM: post-translational modification; RT-qPCR: reverse transcription followed by quantitative PCR; RUBCN: rubicon autophagy regulator; SEM: standard error of the mean; SERINC3: serine incorporator 3; SERINC5: serine incorporator 5; SIV: simian immunodeficiency virus; SQSTM1/p62: sequestosome 1; TFEB: transcription factor EB; UVRAG: UV radiation resistance associated gene; VSV: vesicular stomatitis virus; ZFYVE1/DFCP1: zinc finger FYVE-type containing 1.