A Stronger Transcription Regulatory Circuit of HIV-1C Drives the Rapid Establishment of Latency with Implications for the Direct Involvement of Tat.
ABSTRACT: The magnitude of transcription factor binding site variation emerging in HIV-1 subtype C (HIV-1C), especially the addition of NF-?B motifs by sequence duplication, makes the examination of transcriptional silence challenging. How can HIV-1 establish and maintain latency despite having a strong long terminal repeat (LTR)? We constructed panels of subgenomic reporter viral vectors with varying copy numbers of NF-?B motifs (0 to 4 copies) and examined the profile of latency establishment in Jurkat cells. Surprisingly, we found that the stronger the viral promoter, the faster the latency establishment. Importantly, at the time of commitment to latency and subsequent points, Tat levels in the cell were not limiting. Using highly sensitive strategies, we demonstrate the presence of Tat in the latent cell, recruited to the latent LTR. Our data allude, for the first time, to Tat establishing a negative feedback loop during the late phases of viral infection, leading to the rapid silencing of the viral promoter.IMPORTANCE Over the past 10 to 15?years, HIV-1 subtype C (HIV-1C) has been evolving rapidly toward gaining stronger transcriptional activity by sequence duplication of major transcription factor binding sites. The duplication of NF-?B motifs is unique and exclusive to HIV-1C, a property not shared with any of the other eight HIV-1 genetic families. What mechanism(s) does HIV-1C employ to establish and maintain transcriptional silence despite the presence of a strong promoter and concomitant strong, positive transcriptional feedback is the primary question that we attempted to address in the present manuscript. The role that Tat plays in latency reversal is well established. Our work with the most common HIV-1 subtype, HIV-1C, offers crucial leads toward Tat possessing a dual role in serving as both a transcriptional activator and repressor at different phases of viral infection of the cell. The leads that we offer through the present work have significant implications for HIV-1 cure research.
Project description:In a multicentric, observational, investigator-blinded, and longitudinal clinical study of 764 ART-naïve subjects, we identified nine different promoter variant strains of HIV-1 subtype C (HIV-1C) emerging in the Indian population, with some of these variants being reported for the first time. Unlike several previous studies, our work here focuses on the evolving viral regulatory elements, not the coding sequences. The emerging viral strains contain additional copies of the existing transcription factor binding sites (TFBS), including TCF-1α/LEF-1, RBEIII, AP-1, and NF-κB, created by sequence duplication. The additional TFBS are genetically diverse and may blur the distinction between the modulatory region of the promoter and the viral enhancer. In a follow-up analysis, we found trends, but no significant associations between any specific variant promoter and prognostic markers, probably because the emerging viral strains might not have established mono infections yet. Illumina sequencing of four clinical samples containing a coinfection indicated the domination of one strain over the other and establishing a stable ratio with the second strain at the follow-up time points. Since a single promoter regulates viral gene expression and constitutes the master regulatory circuit with Tat, the acquisition of additional and variant copies of the TFBS may significantly impact viral latency and latent reservoir characteristics. Further studies are urgently warranted to understand how the diverse TFBS profiles of the viral promoter may modulate the characteristics of the latent reservoir, especially following the initiation of antiretroviral therapy.
Project description:Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) Tat binds the viral RNA structure transactivation-responsive element (TAR) and recruits transcriptional cofactors, amplifying viral mRNA expression. The Tat inhibitor didehydro-cortistatin A (dCA) promotes a state of persistent latency, refractory to viral reactivation. Here we investigated mechanisms of HIV-1 resistance to dCA in vitro Mutations in Tat and TAR were not identified, consistent with the high level of conservation of these elements. Instead, viruses resistant to dCA developed higher Tat-independent basal transcription. We identified a combination of mutations in the HIV-1 promoter that increased basal transcriptional activity and modifications in viral Nef and Vpr proteins that increased NF-?B activity. Importantly, these variants are unlikely to enter latency due to accrued transcriptional fitness and loss of sensitivity to Tat feedback loop regulation. Furthermore, cells infected with these variants become more susceptible to cytopathic effects and immune-mediated clearance. This is the first report of viral escape to a Tat inhibitor resulting in heightened Tat-independent activity, all while maintaining wild-type Tat and TAR.IMPORTANCE HIV-1 Tat enhances viral RNA transcription by binding to TAR and recruiting activating factors. Tat enhances its own transcription via a positive-feedback loop. Didehydro-cortistatin A (dCA) is a potent Tat inhibitor, reducing HIV-1 transcription and preventing viral rebound. dCA activity demonstrates the potential of the "block-and-lock" functional cure approaches. We investigated the viral genetic barrier to dCA resistance in vitro While mutations in Tat and TAR were not identified, mutations in the promoter and in the Nef and Vpr proteins promoted high Tat-independent activity. Promoter mutations increased the basal transcription, while Nef and Vpr mutations increased NF-?B nuclear translocation. This heightened transcriptional activity renders CD4+ T cells infected with these viruses more susceptible to cytotoxic T cell-mediated killing and to cell death by cytopathic effects. Results provide insights on drug resistance to a novel class of antiretrovirals and reveal novel aspects of viral transcriptional regulation.
Project description:The trans-activator of transcription (Tat) of HIV-1 plays an important role in viral infection and pathogenesis. We examined the genetic characteristics of exon 1 of the tat gene derived from 102 seropositive subjects from southern India. Database-derived Indian (n=105) and global (n=413) HIV-1C sequences were also used for viral epidemiological signature pattern analysis in the Tat open reading frame (ORF). We identified HIV-1C as the most predominant genetic subtype (99%) and the presence of a novel A1C recombinant strain in one study participant. After examining all the available HIV-1C Indian sequences from primary clinical isolates and database-derived sequences, we found a high level of sequence conservation (92.6 ± 12%) within Tat amino acid residues. Furthermore, signature pattern analysis identified five amino acid positions in Tat that contained signature residues unique for Indian HIV-1C consisting of 21A, 24N, 29K, 40K, and 60Q. Our data have direct relevance for subunit-based Tat HIV-1 vaccine development.
Project description:Molecular surveillance is the backbone of HIV-1 vaccinology. Full-length HIV-1 sequences are useful tools that can provide a better understanding of the epidemiology in a given region. A limited number of full-length HIV-1 sequences are available from India, where >95% of the HIV infections are due to HIV-1 subtype C (HIV-1C), which is distinct from the prototype African HIV-1C. In this study, we sequenced six full-length clones isolated from three patients. Extensive phylogenetic analyses of the full-length viral sequences using bioinformatic tools identified a separate cluster of Indian strains, thus confirming the distinct phylogenetic identity of the Indian HIV-1C. Notably, the long terminal repeat (LTR) of two of the six molecular clones contained only two NF-?B binding sites. The sequences also displayed features characteristic of HIV-1C including a Tat dicysteine motif, a shortened Rev open reading frame, and a predicted CCR5 coreceptor tropism for gp120 of three of the proviral sequences.
Project description:HIV-1 Clade C (Subtype C; HIV-1C) is responsible for greater than 50% of infections worldwide. Unlike clade B HIV-1 (Subtype B; HIV-1B), which is known to cause HIV associated dementia (HAD) in approximately 15% to 30% of the infected individuals, HIV-1C has been linked with lower prevalence of HAD (0 to 6%) in India and Ethiopia. However, recent studies report a higher prevalence of HAD in South Africa, Zambia and Botswana, where HIV-1C infections predominate. Therefore, we examined whether Southern African HIV-1C is genetically distinct and investigated its neurovirulence. HIV-1 Tat protein is a viral determinant of neurocognitive dysfunction. Therefore, we focused our study on the variations seen in tat gene and its contribution to HIV associated neuropathogenesis.A phylogenetic analysis of tat sequences of Southern African (South Africa and Zambia) HIV isolates with those from the geographically distant Southeast Asian (India and Bangladesh) isolates revealed that Southern African tat sequences are distinct from Southeast Asian isolates. The proportion of HIV - 1C variants with an intact dicysteine motif in Tat protein (C30C31) was significantly higher in the Southern African countries compared to Southeast Asia and broadly paralleled the high incidence of HAD in these countries. Neuropathogenic potential of a Southern African HIV-1C isolate (from Zambia; HIV-1C 1084i), a HIV-1C isolate (HIV-1 IndieC1) from Southeast Asia and a HIV-1B isolate (HIV-1 ADA) from the US were tested using in vitro assays to measure neurovirulence and a SCID mouse HIV encephalitis model to measure cognitive deficits. In vitro assays revealed that the Southern African isolate, HIV-1C 1084i exhibited increased monocyte chemotaxis and greater neurotoxicity compared to Southeast Asian HIV-1C. In neurocognitive tests, SCID mice injected with MDM infected with Southern African HIV-1C 1084i showed greater cognitive dysfunction similar to HIV-1B but much higher than those exposed to Southeast Asian HIV - 1C.We report here, for the first time, that HIV-1C from Southern African countries is genetically distinct from Southeast Asian HIV-1C and that it exhibits a high frequency of variants with dicysteine motif in a key neurotoxic HIV protein, Tat. Our results indicate that Tat dicysteine motif determines neurovirulence. If confirmed in population studies, it may be possible to predict neurocognitive outcomes of individuals infected with HIV-1C by genotyping Tat.
Project description:Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) Tat is a mediator of viral transcription and is involved in the control of virus replication. However, associations between HIV-1 Tat diversity and functional effects during primary HIV-1 infection are still unclear. We estimated selection pressures in tat exon 1 using the mixed-effects model of evolution with 672 viral sequences generated from 20 patients infected with HIV-1 subtype C (HIV-1C) over 500 days postseroconversion. tat exon 1 residues 3, 4, 21, 24, 29, 39, and 68 were under positive selection, and we established that specific amino acid signature patterns were apparent in primary HIV-1C infection compared with chronic infection. We assessed the impact of these mutations on long terminal repeat (LTR) activity and found that Tat activity was negatively affected by the Ala(21) substitution identified in 13/20 (65%) of patients, which reduced LTR activity by 88% (± 1%) (P < 0.001). The greatest increase in Tat activity was seen with the Gln(35)/Lys(39) double mutant that resulted in an additional 49% (± 14%) production of LTR-driven luciferase (P = 0.012). There was a moderate positive correlation between Tat-mediated LTR activity and HIV-1 RNA in plasma (P = 0.026; r = 0.400) after 180 days postseroconversion that was reduced by 500 days postseroconversion (P = 0.043; r = 0.266). Although Tat activation of the LTR is not a strong predictor of these clinical variables, there are significant linear relationships between Tat transactivation and patients' plasma viral loads and CD4 counts, highlighting the complex interplay between Tat mutations in early HIV-1C infection.
Project description:Cells latently infected with HIV represent a currently insurmountable barrier to viral eradication in infected patients. Using the J-Lat human T-cell model of HIV latency, we have investigated the role of host factor binding to the kappaB enhancer elements of the HIV long terminal repeat (LTR) in the maintenance of viral latency. We show that NF-kappaB p50-HDAC1 complexes constitutively bind the latent HIV LTR and induce histone deacetylation and repressive changes in chromatin structure of the HIV LTR, changes that impair recruitment of RNA polymerase II and transcriptional initiation. Knockdown of p50 expression with specific small hairpin RNAs reduces HDAC1 binding to the latent HIV LTR and induces RNA polymerase II recruitment. Similarly, inhibition of histone deacetylase (HDAC) activity with trichostatin A promotes binding of RNA polymerase II to the latent HIV LTR. This bound polymerase complex, however, remains non-processive, generating only short viral transcripts. Synthesis of full-length viral transcripts can be rescued under these conditions by expression of Tat. The combination of HDAC inhibitors and Tat merits consideration as a new strategy for purging latent HIV proviruses from their cellular reservoirs.
Project description:HIV-1 subtype C (HIV-1C) may duplicate longer amino acid stretches in the p6 Gag protein, leading to the creation of an additional Pro-Thr/Ser-Ala-Pro (PTAP) motif necessary for viral packaging. However, the biological significance of a duplication of the PTAP motif for HIV-1 replication and pathogenesis has not been experimentally validated. In a longitudinal study of two different clinical cohorts of select HIV-1 seropositive, drug-naive individuals from India, we found that 8 of 50 of these individuals harbored a mixed infection of viral strains discordant for the PTAP duplication. Conventional and next-generation sequencing of six primary viral quasispecies at multiple time points disclosed that in a mixed infection, the viral strains containing the PTAP duplication dominated the infection. The dominance of the double-PTAP viral strains over a genetically similar single-PTAP viral clone was confirmed in viral proliferation and pairwise competition assays. Of note, in the proximity ligation assay, double-PTAP Gag proteins exhibited a significantly enhanced interaction with the host protein tumor susceptibility gene 101 (Tsg101). Moreover, Tsg101 overexpression resulted in a biphasic effect on HIV-1C proliferation, an enhanced effect at low concentration and an inhibitory effect only at higher concentrations, unlike a uniformly inhibitory effect on subtype B strains. In summary, our results indicate that the duplication of the PTAP motif in the p6 Gag protein enhances the replication fitness of HIV-1C by engaging the Tsg101 host protein with a higher affinity. Our results have implications for HIV-1 pathogenesis, especially of HIV-1C.
Project description:The HIV promoter within the viral long terminal repeat (LTR) orchestrates many aspects of the viral life cycle, from the dynamics of viral gene expression and replication to the establishment of a latent state. In particular, after viral integration into the host genome, stochastic fluctuations in viral gene expression amplified by the Tat positive feedback loop can contribute to the formation of either a productive, transactivated state or an inactive state. In a significant fraction of cells harboring an integrated copy of the HIV-1 model provirus (LTR-GFP-IRES-Tat), this bimodal gene expression profile is dynamic, as cells spontaneously and continuously flip between active (Bright) and inactive (Off) expression modes. Furthermore, these switching dynamics may contribute to the establishment and maintenance of proviral latency, because after viral integration long delays in gene expression can occur before viral transactivation. The HIV-1 promoter contains cis-acting Sp1 and NF-kappaB elements that regulate gene expression via the recruitment of both activating and repressing complexes. We hypothesized that interplay in the recruitment of such positive and negative factors could modulate the stability of the Bright and Off modes and thereby alter the sensitivity of viral gene expression to stochastic fluctuations in the Tat feedback loop. Using model lentivirus variants with mutations introduced in the Sp1 and NF-kappaB elements, we employed flow cytometry, mRNA quantification, pharmacological perturbations, and chromatin immunoprecipitation to reveal significant functional differences in contributions of each site to viral gene regulation. Specifically, the Sp1 sites apparently stabilize both the Bright and the Off states, such that their mutation promotes noisy gene expression and reduction in the regulation of histone acetylation and deacetylation. Furthermore, the NF-kappaB sites exhibit distinct properties, with kappaB site I serving a stronger activating role than kappaB site II. Moreover, Sp1 site III plays a particularly important role in the recruitment of both p300 and RelA to the promoter. Finally, analysis of 362 clonal cell populations infected with the viral variants revealed that mutations in any of the Sp1 sites yield a 6-fold higher frequency of clonal bifurcation compared to that of the wild-type promoter. Thus, each Sp1 and NF-kappaB site differentially contributes to the regulation of viral gene expression, and Sp1 sites functionally "dampen" transcriptional noise and thereby modulate the frequency and maintenance of this model of viral latency. These results may have biomedical implications for the treatment of HIV latency.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Transcription from the integrated HIV-1 promoter is directly governed by its chromatin environment, and the nucleosome-1 downstream from the transcription start site directly impedes transcription from the HIV-1 promoter. The HIV-1 Tat protein regulates the passage from viral latency to active transcription by binding to the viral mRNA hairpin (TAR) and recruiting transcriptional factors to promote transcriptional elongation. The Tat inhibitor didehydro-Cortistatin A (dCA) inhibits transcription and overtime, the lack of low-grade transcriptional events, triggers epigenetic changes at the latent loci that "lock" HIV transcription in a latent state.<h4>Results</h4>Here we investigated those epigenetic changes using multiple cell line models of HIV-1 latency and active transcription. We demonstrated that dCA treatment does not alter the classic nucleosome positioning at the HIV-1 promoter, but promotes tighter nucleosome/DNA association correlating with increased deacetylated H3 occupancy at nucleosome-1. Recruitment of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex PBAF, necessary for Tat-mediated transactivation, is also inhibited, while recruitment of the repressive BAF complex is enhanced. These results were supported by loss of RNA polymerase II recruitment on the HIV genome, even during strong stimulation with latency-reversing agents. No epigenetic changes were detected in cell line models of latency with Tat-TAR incompetent proviruses confirming the specificity of dCA for Tat.<h4>Conclusions</h4>We characterized the dCA-mediated epigenetic signature on the HIV genome, which translates into potent blocking effects on HIV expression, further strengthening the potential of Tat inhibitors in "block-and-lock" functional cure approaches.