Casp8p41: The protean mediator of death in CD4 T-cells that replicate HIV

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HIV cure is now the focus of intense research after Timothy Ray Brown (the Berlin patient) set the precedent of being the first and only person cured. A major barrier to achieving this goal on a meaningful scale is an elimination of the latent reservoir, which is thought to comprise CD4- positive cells that harbor integrated, replication-competent HIV provirus. These cells do not express viral proteins, are indistinguishable from uninfected CD4 cells, and are thought to be responsible for HIV viral rebound—that occurs within weeks of combination anti retroviral therapy (cART) interruption. Modalities to engineer transcriptional stimulation (reactivation) of this dormant integrated HIV provirus, leading to expression of cytotoxic viral proteins, are thought to be a specific way to eradicate the latently infected CD4 pool and are becoming increasingly relevant in the era of HIV cure. HIV protease is one such protein produced after HIV reactivation that cleaves procaspase-8 to generate a novel protein Casp8p41. Casp8p41 then binds to the BH3 domain of BAK, leading to BAK oligomerization, mitochondrial depolarization, and apoptosis. In central memory T cells (TCMs) from HIV-infected patients, an elevated Bcl-2/procaspase-8 ratio was observed, and Casp8p41 binding to Bcl-2 was associated with a lack of reactivation-induced cell death. This was reversed by priming cells with a specific Bcl-2 antagonist prior to reactivation, resulting in increased cell death and decreased HIV DNA in a Casp8p41- dependent pathway. This review describes the biology, clinical relevance, and implications of Casp8p41 for a potential cure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cell Death
StatePublished - Sep 27 2016


  • Apoptosis
  • Casp8p41
  • HIV cure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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