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J Biol Chem. 1999 Sep 24;274(39):27981-8.

ERK MAP kinase links cytokine signals to activation of latent HIV-1 infection by stimulating a cooperative interaction of AP-1 and NF-kappaB.

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Department of Cancer Immunology and AIDS, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) can establish latent infection following provirus integration into the host genome. NF-kappaB plays a critical role in activation of HIV-1 gene expression by cytokines and other stimuli, but the signal transduction pathways that regulate the switch from latent to productive infection have not been defined. Here, we show that ERK1/ERK2 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) plays a central role in linking signals at the cell surface to activation of HIV-1 gene expression in latently infected cells. MAPK was activated by cytokines and phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate in latently infected U1 cells. The induction of HIV-1 expression by these stimuli was inhibited by PD98059 and U0126, which are specific inhibitors of MAPK activation. Studies using constitutively active MEK or Raf kinase mutants demonstrated that MAPK activates the HIV-1 long terminal repeat (LTR) through the NF-kappaB sites. Most HIV-1 inducers activated NF-kappaB via a MAPK-independent pathway, indicating that activation of NF-kappaB is not sufficient to explain the activation of HIV-1 gene expression by MAPK. In contrast, all of the stimuli activated AP-1 via a MAPK-dependent pathway. NF-kappaB and AP-1 components c-Fos and c-Jun were shown to physically associate by yeast two-hybrid assays and electrophoretic mobility shift assays. Coexpression of NF-kappaB and c-Fos or c-Jun synergistically transactivated the HIV-1 LTR through the NF-kappaB sites. These studies suggest that MAPK acts by stimulating AP-1 and a subsequent physical and functional interaction of AP-1 with NF-kappaB, resulting in a complex that synergistically transactivates the HIV-1 LTR. These results define a mechanism for signal-dependent activation of HIV-1 replication in latently infected cells and suggest potential therapeutic strategies for unmasking latent reservoirs of HIV-1.

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