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EMBO J. 2001 Apr 2;20(7):1726-38.

The site of HIV-1 integration in the human genome determines basal transcriptional activity and response to Tat transactivation.

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Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology and Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94141, USA.


Because of the heterogeneity of chromatin, the site of integration of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the genome could have dramatic effects on its transcriptional activity. We have used an HIV-1-derived retroviral vector, in which the green fluorescent protein is under the control of the HIV promoter, to generate by infection 34 Jurkat clonal cell lines each containing a single integration of the HIV-1 vector. In the absence of Tat, a 75-fold difference in expression level between the highest and lowest expressing clones was observed. Basal promoter activity was low in 80% of the clones and moderate to high in the remaining 20% of clones. We found that differences in expression levels are due to the integration site and are not controlled by DNA methylation or histone acetylation. Tat activated transcription in each clone, and an inverse correlation was observed between basal transcriptional activity and inducibility by Tat. These observations demonstrate that the chromatin environment influences basal HIV gene expression and that the HIV Tat protein activates transcription independently of the chromatin environment.

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