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PLoS Genet. 2009 Jan;5(1):e1000339. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000339. Epub 2009 Jan 16.

Yeast genetic analysis reveals the involvement of chromatin reassembly factors in repressing HIV-1 basal transcription.

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  • 1Departamento de Genética, Universidad de Sevilla, Seville, Spain.

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  • PLoS Genet. 2009 Jan;5(1). doi: 10.1371/annotation/45587774-5d7c-4023-97b0-96833be7ad9a.


Rebound of HIV viremia after interruption of anti-retroviral therapy is due to the small population of CD4+ T cells that remain latently infected. HIV-1 transcription is the main process controlling post-integration latency. Regulation of HIV-1 transcription takes place at both initiation and elongation levels. Pausing of RNA polymerase II at the 5' end of HIV-1 transcribed region (5'HIV-TR), which is immediately downstream of the transcription start site, plays an important role in the regulation of viral expression. The activation of HIV-1 transcription correlates with the rearrangement of a positioned nucleosome located at this region. These two facts suggest that the 5'HIV-TR contributes to inhibit basal transcription of those HIV-1 proviruses that remain latently inactive. However, little is known about the cell elements mediating the repressive role of the 5'HIV-TR. We performed a genetic analysis of this phenomenon in Saccharomyces cerevisiae after reconstructing a minimal HIV-1 transcriptional system in this yeast. Unexpectedly, we found that the critical role played by the 5'HIV-TR in maintaining low levels of basal transcription in yeast is mediated by FACT, Spt6, and Chd1, proteins so far associated with chromatin assembly and disassembly during ongoing transcription. We confirmed that this group of factors plays a role in HIV-1 postintegration latency in human cells by depleting the corresponding human orthologs with shRNAs, both in HIV latently infected cell populations and in particular single-integration clones, including a latent clone with a provirus integrated in a highly transcribed gene. Our results indicate that chromatin reassembly factors participate in the establishment of the equilibrium between activation and repression of HIV-1 when it integrates into the human genome, and they open the possibility of considering these factors as therapeutic targets of HIV-1 latency.

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