Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive individuals express elevated levels of interleukin-8 (IL-8), which is believed to be responsible for some of the clinical manifestations occurring during AIDS. We report here that virion-derived HIV type 1 (HIV-1) protein R (Vpr) increased IL-8 expression in primary T cells and macrophages, as well as in the T-cell line Jurkat, the monocytic cell line U937, and the epithelial cell line A549. Vpr appeared to increase IL-8 expression and IL-8 promoter activity by activating transcription factors NF-κB and NF-IL-6. Elevated Vpr was also shown to increase transcription of the NF-κB and NF-IL-6 enhancer-containing viral promoters for HIV, cytomegalovirus, and simian virus 40, as well as increase the expression of IL-6 and IL-10 in primary macrophages and in A549 cells, tumor necrosis factor alpha expression in primary T cells, and IL-6 and gamma interferon expression in U937 cells. These results suggest a new role for Vpr in the pathogenesis of HIV infection, namely, the activation of transcription factors NF-IL-6 and NF-κB
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