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PLoS One. 2015 May 6;10(5):e0125652. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125652. eCollection 2015.

Damaging the Integrated HIV Proviral DNA with TALENs.

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Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine and School of Life Sciences, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV, United States of America.


HIV-1 integrates its proviral DNA genome into the host genome, presenting barriers for virus eradication. Several new gene-editing technologies have emerged that could potentially be used to damage integrated proviral DNA. In this study, we use transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) to target a highly conserved sequence in the transactivation response element (TAR) of the HIV-1 proviral DNA. We demonstrated that TALENs cleave a DNA template with the HIV-1 proviral target site in vitro. A GFP reporter, under control of HIV-1 TAR, was efficiently inactivated by mutations introduced by transfection of TALEN plasmids. When infected cells containing the full-length integrated HIV-1 proviral DNA were transfected with TALENs, the TAR region accumulated indels. When one of these mutants was tested, the mutated HIV-1 proviral DNA was incapable of producing detectable Gag expression. TALEN variants engineered for degenerate recognition of select nucleotide positions also cleaved proviral DNA in vitro and the full-length integrated proviral DNA genome in living cells. These results suggest a possible design strategy for the therapeutic considerations of incomplete target sequence conservation and acquired resistance mutations. We have established a new strategy for damaging integrated HIV proviral DNA that may have future potential for HIV-1 proviral DNA eradication.

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