The HIV-1 Nef protein causes a decrease in major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and CD4 molecule expression on the cell surface. To determine if Nef can affect components of the innate immune response, we assessed the ability of Nef to alter the cell surface expression of human CD1d. In cells co-expressing CD1d and Nef, a substantial reduction in the cell surface level of CD1d was observed, with a concomitant reduction in the activation of CD1d-restricted NKT cells. Nef had a minimal effect on the cell surface expression of a mutant CD1d molecule in which the last 6 or 10 amino acids of the cytoplasmic tail were deleted. Additionally, it was found that Nef physically interacted with wild-type (but not tail-deleted) CD1d. Therefore, one means by which HIV-1 may be able to establish a foothold in an infected individual is by directly interfering with the functional cell surface expression of CD1d.
- Cell surface expression