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PLoS Pathog. 2013 Oct;9(10):e1003712. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003712. Epub 2013 Oct 24.

ZASC1 stimulates HIV-1 transcription elongation by recruiting P-TEFb and TAT to the LTR promoter.

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  • 1Morgridge Institute for Research, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America ; Institute for Molecular Virology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America ; McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America.


Transcription from the HIV-1 LTR promoter efficiently initiates but rapidly terminates because of a non-processive form of RNA polymerase II. This premature termination is overcome by assembly of an HIV-1 TAT/P-TEFb complex at the transactivation response region (TAR), a structured RNA element encoded by the first 59 nt of HIV-1 mRNA. Here we have identified a conserved DNA-binding element for the cellular transcription factor, ZASC1, in the HIV-1 core promoter immediately upstream of TAR. We show that ZASC1 interacts with TAT and P-TEFb, co-operating with TAT to regulate HIV-1 gene expression, and promoting HIV-1 transcriptional elongation. The importance of ZASC1 to HIV-1 transcription elongation was confirmed through mutagenesis of the ZASC1 binding sites in the LTR promoter, shRNAs targeting ZASC1 and expression of dominant negative ZASC1. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis revealed that ZASC1 recruits Tat and P-TEFb to the HIV-1 core promoter in a TAR-independent manner. Thus, we have identified ZASC1 as novel regulator of HIV-1 gene expression that functions through the DNA-dependent, RNA-independent recruitment of TAT/P-TEFb to the HIV-1 promoter.

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