Hit-and-run stimulation: a novel concept to reactivate latent HIV-1 infection without cytokine gene induction

Frank Wolschendorf, Alexandra Duverger, Jennifer Jones, Frederic H Wagner, Jason Huff, William H Benjamin, Michael S Saag, Michael Niederweis, Olaf Kutsch
Journal of Virology 2010, 84 (17): 8712-20
Current antiretroviral therapy (ART) efficiently controls HIV-1 replication but fails to eradicate the virus. Even after years of successful ART, HIV-1 can conceal itself in a latent state in long-lived CD4(+) memory T cells. From this latent reservoir, HIV-1 rebounds during treatment interruptions. Attempts to therapeutically eradicate this viral reservoir have yielded disappointing results. A major problem with previously utilized activating agents is that at the concentrations required for efficient HIV-1 reactivation, these stimuli trigger high-level cytokine gene expression (hypercytokinemia). Therapeutically relevant HIV-1-reactivating agents will have to trigger HIV-1 reactivation without the induction of cytokine expression. We present here a proof-of-principle study showing that this is a possibility. In a high-throughput screening effort, we identified an HIV-1-reactivating protein factor (HRF) secreted by the nonpathogenic bacterium Massilia timonae. In primary T cells and T-cell lines, HRF triggered a high but nonsustained peak of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kappaB) activity. While this short NF-kappaB peak potently reactivated latent HIV-1 infection, it failed to induce gene expression of several proinflammatory NF-kappaB-dependent cellular genes, such as those for tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-8 (IL-8), and gamma interferon (IFN-gamma). Dissociation of cellular and viral gene induction was achievable, as minimum amounts of Tat protein, synthesized following application of a short NF-kappaB pulse, triggered HIV-1 transactivation and subsequent self-perpetuated HIV-1 expression. In the absence of such a positive feedback mechanism, cellular gene expression was not sustained, suggesting that strategies modulating the NF-kappaB activity profile could be used to selectively trigger HIV-1 reactivation.


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