Chromatin-associated regulation of HIV-1 transcription: implications for the development of therapeutic strategies

Vincent Quivy, Stephane De Walque, Carine Van Lint
Sub-cellular Biochemistry 2007, 41: 371-96
Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection can now be treated effectively in many patients in the developed world, using combinations of antiretroviral therapeutics, called Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART). However, despite prolonged treatment with HAART, the persistence of latently HIV-1-infected cellular reservoirs harboring transcriptionally silent but replication-competent proviruses represents the major hurdle to virus eradication. These latently infected cells are a permanent source for virus reactivation and lead to a rebound of the viral load after interruption of HAART. Therefore, a greater understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating proviral latency and reactivation should lead to rational strategies aimed at purging these cellular reservoirs of HIV-1. This review summarizes our current knowledge and understanding of the elements involved in HIV-1 transcriptional reactivation: (1) the site of integration; (2) the transcription factor NF-kappaB, which is induced by proinflammatory cytokines (such as TNFalpha) and binds to two kappaB sites in the HIV-1 promoter region; (3) the specific remodeling of a single nucleosome (called nuc-1 and located immediately downstream of the HIV-1 transcription start site under latency conditions) upon activation of the HIV-1 promoter; (4) post-translational acetylation of histones and of non-histone proteins (following treatment with deacetylases inhibitors, which induce viral transcription and nuc-1 remodeling); and (5) the viral trans-activator Tat, which promotes transcription by mediating the recruitment to the HIV-1 promoter of histone-modifying enzymes and ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complexes required for nucleosome disruption and transcriptional processivity. Finally, this review highlights experimental therapies aimed at administrating HIV-1 gene expression activators (such as HDAC inhibitors) combined with an effective HAART in order to reactivate and decrease/eliminate the pool of latently HIV-1-infected cellular reservoirs

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