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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Sep 1;90(17):8000-4.

Inhibition of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 replication by regulated expression of a polymeric Tat activation response RNA decoy as a strategy for gene therapy in AIDS.

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  • 1Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


We are investigating a strategy for somatic gene therapy to treat human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection by intracellular expression of an RNA decoy and a ribozyme. The RNA decoy, consisting of polymeric Tat activation response elements (TARs), is designed to compete for Tat binding in an equilibrium with viral TAR RNA, thereby inhibiting viral replication. The expression of polymeric TAR is regulated by the HIV long terminal repeat (LTR) and transcriptional activation is dependent on the presence of HIV Tat. Our initial studies indicated that plasmids expressing up to 50 tandem copies of TAR RNA (50TAR) inhibited tat-mediated gene expression by > 90% in a transient transfection assay. A HIV LTR-driven 50TAR construct was subcloned into a replication-defective retroviral vector to ensure high-efficiency gene transfer into T lymphocytes. In addition, a gag RNA-specific ribozyme gene was introduced into the 50TAR containing retroviral vector to enhance the inhibitory effect of the construct (designated TAR-Rib). A human T-cell line (Molt3) was infected (transduced) with the TAR-Rib recombinant retrovirus and challenged with either HIV-1 or simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). HIV-1 replication was inhibited by 99% in the TAR-Rib-transduced T cells and was maintained over a 14-month period, suggesting that this antiviral strategy represses the formation of escape mutants. Interestingly, the TAR-Rib also inhibited SIV replication in transduced T cells, which suggests that polymeric TAR is a general inhibitor of primate lentiviruses; therefore, the macaque model could be used for further in vivo testing of this antiviral gene therapy strategy.

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