23 February 2016 - PRESS RELEASE

HIV/AIDS: A new enzyme is capable of removing HIV-proviruses from infected cells

Researchers at the Heinrich Pette Institute, Hamburg, and at the Dresden Technical University (TUD) succeeded in developing a designer enzyme that is capable of specifically removing the provirus from infected cells of most primary HIV-1 isolates. Recombinase Brec1 might represent a promising candidate for HIV cure. The results have now been published in the renowned Journal „Nature Biotechnology“.


Brec1 recombinase (yellow) removing the provirus (turquoise) from human DNA. © Heinrich-Pette-Institut

Even though enormous advances have been made in HIV treatment, a complete cure from the disease is still not possible. Indeed, the propagation of the virus in the body can nowadays be held in check through medication, but the provirus remains present in cells of the body.

A team of researchers from the research unit ‘Antiviral Strategies’ at the HPI in Hamburg as well as the Department of Medical Systems Biology at the TUD employed directed molecular evolution to generate a designer recombinase (Brec1), which can precisely remove the provirus from the majority (>90%) of clinical HIV-1 isolates found in humans.

Importantly, the antiviral effects were accomplished without measurable cytotoxic or genotoxic side effects. Based on these findings, Brec1 represents a promising candidate for possible applications in improved HIV therapies.

“The obtained results represent a solid basis for first clinical trials aimed at HIV cure, which we plan to initiate”, explains the head of the HPI group, Prof Joachim Hauber, who also works in HIV cure strategies under the umbrella of DZIF.

HPI Press Release


Janet Karpinski, Ilona Hauber, Jan Chemnitz, Carola Schäfer, Maciej Paszkowski-Rogacz, Deboyoti Chakraborty, Niklas Beschorner, Helga Hofmann-Sieber, Ulrike C. Lange, Adam Grundhoff, Karl Hackmann, Evelin Schrock, Josephine Abi-Ghanem, M. Teresa Pisabarro, Vineeth Surendranath, Axel Schambach, Christoph Lindner, Jan van Lunzen, Joachim Hauber & Frank Buchholz (2016). Directed evolution of a recombinase that excises the provirus of most HIV-1 primary isolates with high specificity. Nature Biotechnology 2014 Feb 22, advance online publication. doi: 10.1038/nbt.3467.


Prof Joachim Hauber

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