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Hiv Life Cycle: Reproduction

When the immune system recruits T cells to fight an infection, the T cells start producing many proteins. Along with the normal cellular protein products, a T cell carrying an HIV provirus also produces HIV proteins. The first HIV proteins made are called Tat and Rev. Tat encourages the cellular machinery to copy HIV's proviral DNA into RNA molecules. These RNA molecules are then processed in the nucleus to become templates for several of the HIV proteins, some of whose functions are not well understood.

Rev, on the other hand, ushers the HIV's RNA molecules from the nucleus, where they are being reproduced, into the host cell's cytoplasm. Early in HIV reproduction, with only a few RNA molecules from which to make protein, a small quantity of Rev is made. Therefore, most of the RNA molecules remain in the nucleus long enough to get processed. As time passes, however, and Tat continues to instigate RNA production, more Rev is made. A higher amount of Rev protein increases the speed with which RNA molecules are ejected from the nucleus. These RNA molecules, which have undergone little or no processing, become templates to make different HIV proteins. The newer proteins are made in long chains that require trimming before they become functional. One of the proteins in the chain is the protease, the protein that trims. Other proteins include those that make up the protein shell, the reverse transcriptase, and integrase.

After the newly created proteins are processed to the right size, they form new virions by first assembling into a shell, then drawing in two unprocessed RNA molecules and filling up the remaining space with integrase, protease, and replicase. The new virions bud from the host-cell membrane, appropriating some of that membrane to form an outer coat in the process. The mature virus particles are now ready to infect other cells.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 2HIV - Hiv And Aids, Hiv Life Cycle: Entering Cells, Hiv Life Cycle: Reproduction, Hiv's Immune-system Impairment Mechanism