That assembly and release of HIV-1 particles takes place at the plasma membrane has been established for some time. It has also been suspected that the process additionally requires lipid rafts — plasma membrane domains that serve as docking sites for some proteins involved in signal transduction. In 20 November Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Akira Ono and Eric Freed at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology, have shown not only that the viral Gag protein, which promotes particle production, associates with lipid rafts, but also that the protein's N terminus and the Gag-Gag interaction domains are crucial for the association (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2001, 98:13925-13930).

This has increased speculation that cholesterol-depleting drugs might suppress HIV replication in people. Rafts are rich in cholesterol as well as sphingolipids. James Hildreth, Associate Professor of Pharmacology and...

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