Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, Dental Sciences Building, Room 3007J, 1151 Richmond St, N6A5C1 London, Ontario, Canada
Biotherapeutics Research Laboratory, Robarts Research Institute, London, Ontario, Canada
Antiretroviral therapy can control human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) replication in people living with HIV; however, these treatments are not curative and no practical approach for an HIV-1 cure has yet shown success in clinical trials. Counteracting the multiple barriers HIV-1 presents against a practical cure is a direct means to functionalize these curative approaches in vivo. Pharmacological inhibition of the HIV-1 accessory protein, Nef, represents a particularly promising and ambitious approach, with Nef inhibitors holding the potential to reverse HIV-1-related defects in T cell receptor and kinase signaling, apoptosis, autophagy and most importantly, antigen presentation. Together, the capacity for Nef inhibitors to restore these activities underscores their potential as supportive agents in a practical HIV-1 cure. In this review, we outline a rationale for pharmacologically targeting Nef and review the progress made in the identification and development of Nef inhibitors.