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Curr HIV Res. 2003 Jul;1(3):343-62.

Chromatin remodeling and modification during HIV-1 Tat-activated transcription.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, George Washington University, School of Medicine, Washington, DC 20037, USA.


Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is the etiologic agent of AIDS. Following entry into the host cell, the viral RNA is reverse transcribed into DNA and subsequently integrated into the host genome as a chromatin template. Chromatin structure may be responsible for silencing retroviral gene expression. Transcriptional activation occurs after ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complexes alter chromatin structure and positioning of nucleosomes. Histone acetyltransferases (HATs), histone deacetylases (HDACs), kinases, and methyltransferases (HMTs), covalently modify nucleosomes by adding or removing chemical moieties in the N-terminal tails of histones. Recent advances have indicated that HIV-1 encoded proteins interact with chromatin remodeling complexes and histone modifying enzymes, implying that chromatin remodeling plays an important role in the HIV-1 life cycle. Nucleosomes are positioned on the HIV-1 LTR and are barriers to transcription. Following cellular activation, these nucleosomes are modified and repositioned allowing for activation of viral gene expression. Tat recruits various HATs to the HIV-1 promoter region and can also be acetylated by some of these enzymes. Unmodified Tat is involved in binding to the CBP/p300 and cdk9/cyclin T complexes and facilitates transcription initiation. Acetylated Tat dissociates from the TAR RNA structure and recruits bromodomain-containing chromatin modifying complexes such as p/CAF and SWI/SNF to facilitate transcription elongation. This review summarizes our current knowledge and understanding of chromatin remodeling complexes and their regulation of HIV-1 replication, and highlights the important contributions HIV-1 research has made to further our understanding of the transcription process.

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