The ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) ensures regulation of the protein pool in the cell by ubiquitination of proteins followed by their degradation by the proteasome. It plays a central role in the cell under normal physiological conditions as well as during viral infections. On the one hand, the UPS can be used by the cell to degrade viral proteins, thereby restricting the viral infection. On the other hand, it can also be subverted by the virus to its own advantage, notably to induce degradation of cellular restriction factors. This makes the UPS a central player in viral restriction and counter-restriction. In this respect, the human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV-1 and 2) represent excellent examples. Indeed, many steps of the HIV life cycle are restricted by cellular proteins, some of which are themselves components of the UPS. However, HIV itself hijacks the UPS to mediate defense against several cellular restriction factors. For example, the HIV auxiliary proteins Vif, Vpx and Vpu counteract specific restriction factors by the recruitment of cellular UPS components. In this review, we describe the interplay between HIV and the UPS to illustrate its role in the restriction of viral infections and its hijacking by viral proteins for counter-restriction.
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