The introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has been an important breakthrough in the treatment of HIV-1 infection and has also a powerful tool to upset the equilibrium of viral production and HIV-1 pathogenesis. Despite the advent of potent combinations of this therapy, the long-lived HIV-1 reservoirs like cells from monocyte-macrophage lineage and resting memory CD4+ T cells which are established early during primary infection constitute a major obstacle to virus eradication. Further HAART interruption leads to immediate rebound viremia from latent reservoirs. This paper focuses on the essentials of the molecular mechanisms for the establishment of HIV-1 latency with special concern to present and future possible treatment strategies to completely purge and target viral persistence in the reservoirs.
Antiretroviral therapy is currently only capable of controlling HIV replication rather than completely eradicating virus from patients. This is due in part to the establishment of a latent virus reservoir in resting CD4+ T cells, which persists even in the presence of HAART. It is thought that forced activation of latently infected cells could induce virus production, allowing targeting of the cell by the immune response. A variety of molecules are able to stimulate HIV from latency. However no tested purging strategy has proven capable of eliminating the infection completely or preventing viral rebound if therapy is stopped. Hence novel latency activation approaches are required. Nanoparticles can offer several advantages over more traditional drug delivery methods, including improved drug solubility, stability, and the ability to simultaneously target multiple different molecules to particular cell or tissue types. Here we describe the development of a novel lipid nanoparticle with the protein kinase C activator bryostatin-2 incorporated (LNP-Bry). These particles can target and activate primary human CD4+ T-cells and stimulate latent virus production from human T-cell lines in vitro and from latently infected cells in a humanized mouse model ex vivo. This activation was synergistically enhanced by the HDAC inhibitor sodium butyrate. Furthermore, LNP-Bry can also be loaded with the protease inhibitor nelfinavir (LNP-Bry-Nel), producing a particle capable of both activating latent virus and inhibiting viral spread. Taken together these data demonstrate the ability of nanotechnological approaches to provide improved methods for activating latent HIV and provide key proof-of-principle experiments showing how novel delivery systems may enhance future HIV therapy.
Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) can potently suppress human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) replication and prevent progression to AIDS. However, HAART does not cure infected patients. Instead, HIV persists in latently infected CD4+ T cells and various cryptic cellular reservoirs. Hence, under current therapy regimens, patients must continue taking HAART for the remainder of their lives. Eliminating residual replication-competent virus is critical if eradication of HIV is to be achieved. While this challenge is formidable, we describe here a number of innovative approaches intended to further deplete HIV in HAART-treated patients. New antiretroviral drugs that target different viral proteins and stages of the virus life cycle, compounds that enhance anti-HIV immune responses and novel gene therapy approaches may each play a role in improving long-term suppression of the virus. Moreover, methods for more specifically and efficiently inducing HIV from latency and eliminating the newly activated host cells are also under development.
latency; HAART; antiretroviral; therapy; AIDS
HIV-1 reservoirs preclude virus eradication in patients receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). The best characterized reservoir is a small, difficult-to-quantify pool of resting memory CD4+ T cells carrying latent but replication-competent viral genomes. Because strategies targeting this latent reservoir are now being tested in clinical trials, well-validated high-throughput assays that quantify this reservoir are urgently needed. Here we compare eleven different approaches for quantitating persistent HIV-1 in 30 patients on HAART, using the original viral outgrowth assay for resting CD4+ T cells carrying inducible, replication-competent viral genomes as a standard for comparison. PCR-based assays for cells containing HIV-1 DNA gave infected cell frequencies at least 2 logs higher than the viral outgrowth assay, even in subjects who started HAART during acute/early infection. This difference may reflect defective viral genomes. The ratio of infected cell frequencies determined by viral outgrowth and PCR-based assays varied dramatically between patients. Although strong correlations with the viral outgrowth assay could not be formally excluded for most assays, correlations achieved statistical significance only for integrated HIV-1 DNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and HIV-1 RNA/DNA ratio in rectal CD4+ T cells. Residual viremia was below the limit of detection in many subjects and did not correlate with the viral outgrowth assays. The dramatic differences in infected cell frequencies and the lack of a precise correlation between culture and PCR-based assays raise the possibility that the successful clearance of latently infected cells may be masked by a larger and variable pool of cells with defective proviruses. These defective proviruses are detected by PCR but may not be affected by reactivation strategies and may not require eradication to accomplish an effective cure. A molecular understanding of the discrepancy between infected cell frequencies measured by viral outgrowth versus PCR assays is an urgent priority in HIV-1 cure research.
Efforts to cure HIV-1 infection have focused on a small pool of CD4+ T cells that carry viral genetic information in a latent form. These cells persist even in patients on optimal antiretroviral therapy. Novel therapeutic strategies targeting latently infected cells are being developed, and therefore practical assays for measuring latently infected cells are urgently needed. These cells were discovered using a virus culture assay in which the cells are induced to release virus particles that are then expanded in culture. This assay is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. Here we evaluate alternative approaches for measuring persistent HIV-1, all of which rely on the detection of viral genetic information using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). None of the PCR-based assays correlated precisely with the virus culture assay. The fundamental problem is that infected cell frequencies determined by PCR are at least 2 logs higher than frequencies determined by the culture assay. Much of this difference may be due to cells carrying defective forms of the virus. These cells may not be eliminated by strategies designed to target latently infected cells. In this situation, successful clearance of latently infected cells might be masked by a large unchanging pool of cells carrying defective HIV-1.
Current antiretroviral therapy for HIV-1 infection effectively suppresses but does not eradicate HIV-1. Patients on Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART) maintain a persistent low-level viremia requiring lifelong adherence to antiretroviral therapies. This viremia may arise from latently infected reservoirs such as resting memory CD4+ T-cells or sanctuary sites where drug penetration is suboptimal. Understanding the mechanisms of HIV latency will help efforts to eradicate the infection. This review examines the dynamics of persistent viremia, viral reservoirs, the mechanisms behind viral latency, and methods to purge the viral reservoirs. This article forms part of a special issue of Antiviral Research marking the 25th anniversary of antiretroviral drug discovery and development.
Heterochromatin; repression; latency; transcription; transcriptional interference; chromatin; primary latency models; virus; epigenetics; histone
Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) suppresses HIV-1 replication but cannot eliminate the virus because HIV-1 establishes latent infection. Interruption of HAART leads to a rapid rebound of viremia. Life-long treatment is therefore required. Efforts to purge the latent reservoir have focused on reactivating latent proviruses without inducing global T-cell activation. However, the killing of the infected cells after virus reactivation, which is essential for elimination of the reservoir, has not been assessed. Here we show that after reversal of latency in an in vitro model, infected resting CD4+ T cells survived despite viral cytopathic effects, even in the presence of autologous cytolytic T-lymphocytes (CTL) from most patients on HAART. Antigen-specific stimulation of patient CTLs led to efficient killing of infected cells. These results demonstrate that stimulating HIV-1-specific CTLs prior to reactivating latent HIV-1 may be essential for successful eradication efforts and should be considered in future clinical trials.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) establishes a latent reservoir in resting memory CD4+ T cells. This latent reservoir is a major barrier to the eradication of HIV-1 in infected individuals and is not affected by highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Reactivation of latent HIV-1 is a possible strategy for elimination of this reservoir. The mechanisms with which latency is maintained are unclear. In the analysis of the regulation of HIV-1 gene expression, it is important to consider the nature of HIV-1 integration sites. In this study, we analyzed the integration and transcription of latent HIV-1 in a primary CD4+ T cell model of latency. The majority of integration sites in latently infected cells were in introns of transcription units. Serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) demonstrated that more than 90% of those host genes harboring a latent integrated provirus were transcriptionally active, mostly at high levels. For latently infected cells, we observed a modest preference for integration in the same transcriptional orientation as the host gene (63.8% versus 36.2%). In contrast, this orientation preference was not observed in acutely infected or persistently infected cells. These results suggest that transcriptional interference may be one of the important factors in the establishment and maintenance of HIV-1 latency. Our findings suggest that disrupting the negative control of HIV-1 transcription by upstream host promoters could facilitate the reactivation of latent HIV-1 in some resting CD4+ T cells.
Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has limited the replication and spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, despite treatment, HIV infection persists in latently infected reservoirs, and once therapy is interrupted, viral replication rebounds quickly. Extensive efforts are being directed at eliminating these cell reservoirs. This feat can be achieved by reactivating latent HIV while administering drugs that prevent new rounds of infection and allow the immune system to clear the virus. However, current approaches to HIV eradication have not been effective. Moreover, as HIV latency is multifactorial, the significance of each of its molecular mechanisms is still under debate. Among these, transcriptional repression as a result of reduced levels and activity of the positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb: CDK9/cyclin T) plays a significant role. Therefore, increasing levels of P-TEFb expression and activity is an excellent strategy to stimulate viral gene expression. This review summarizes the multiple steps that cause HIV to enter into latency. It positions the interplay between transcriptionally active and inactive host transcriptional activators and their viral partner Tat as valid targets for the development of new strategies to reactivate latent viral gene expression and eradicate HIV.
HIV latency; transcriptional interference; epigenetic; Tat; positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb).
Whereas cells productively infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) decay rapidly in the setting of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), latently infected resting CD4+ T cells decay very slowly, persisting for the lifetime of the patient and thus forming a stable reservoir for HIV-1. It has been suggested that the stability of the latent reservoir is due to low-level viral replication that continuously replenishes the reservoir despite HAART. Here, we offer the first quantitative study to our knowledge of inflow of newly infected cells into the latent reservoir due to viral replication in the setting of HAART. We make use of a previous observation that in some patients on HAART, the residual viremia is dominated by a predominant plasma clone (PPC) of HIV-1 not found in the latent reservoir. The unique sequence of the PPC serves as a functional label for new entries into the reservoir. We employ a simple mathematical model for the dynamics of the latent reservoir to constrain the inflow rate to between 0 and as few as 70 cells per day. The magnitude of the maximum daily inflow rate is small compared to the size of the latent reservoir, and therefore any inflow that occurs in patients on HAART is unlikely to significantly influence the decay rate of the reservoir. These results suggest that the stability of the latent reservoir is unlikely to arise from ongoing replication during HAART. Thus, intensification of standard HAART regimens should have minimal effects on the decay of the latent reservoir.
Latently infected resting CD4+ T cells represent a stable reservoir for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). When HIV-infected individuals are treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), this latent reservoir decays slowly, with a half-life of up to 44 months. As a result, latently infected resting CD4+ T cells represent the major known barrier to eradication of HIV infection. Two factors are believed to contribute to the stability of the latent reservoir in the setting of HAART: replenishment by low-level viral replication and the intrinsic stability of resting memory CD4+ T cells. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to measure replenishment of this latent reservoir. In this study, we take advantage of a cohort of patients on HAART whose plasma virus consists largely of one (patient-specific) predominant plasma clone (PPC) that is grossly underrepresented in resting CD4+ T cells. We use the PPC as a label for ongoing viral replication by observing the accumulation of the PPC in resting CD4+ T cells over time in each patient. Analysis of the rate at which the PPC accumulates in resting CD4+ T cells allows us to quantitatively infer the maximum inflow of cells into the latent reservoir for HIV. Thus, we are able to provide the first quantitative constraint to our knowledge on the replenishment rate of the latent reservoir in the setting of HAART. Our results indicate that the rate of replenishment is very small and likely not a source of stability in the setting of HAART. These results have important implications regarding therapeutic options for purging the resting CD4+ T cell reservoir and curing HIV infection. Specifically, these results suggest that the intrinsic stability of latently infected resting CD4+ T cells, and not low-level viral replication, must be targeted therapeutically in order to achieve eradication of the latent reservoir.
The introduction of the highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has greatly improved survival. However, these treatments fail to definitively cure the patients and unveil the presence of quiescent HIV-1 reservoirs like cells from monocyte-macrophage lineage. A purge, or at least a significant reduction of these long lived HIV-1 reservoirs will be needed to raise the hope of the viral eradication. This review focuses on the molecular mechanisms responsible for viral persistence in cells of the monocyte-macrophage lineage. Controversy on latency and/or cryptic chronic replication will be specifically evoked. In addition, since HIV-1 infected monocyte-macrophage cells appear to be more resistant to apoptosis, this obstacle to the viral eradication will be discussed. Understanding the intimate mechanisms of HIV-1 persistence is a prerequisite to devise new and original therapies aiming to achieve viral eradication.
Even after extended treatment with powerful antiretroviral drugs, HIV is not completely eliminated from infected individuals. Latently infected CD4+ T cells constitute one reservoir of replication-competent HIV that needs to be eliminated to completely purge virus from antiretroviral drug-treated patients. However, a major limitation in the development of therapies to eliminate this latent reservoir is the lack of relevant in vivo models that can be used to test purging strategies. Here, we show that the humanized BLT (bone marrow-liver-thymus) mouse can be used as both an abundant source of primary latently infected cells for ex vivo latency analysis and also as an in vivo system for the study of latency. We demonstrate that over 2% of human cells recovered from the spleens of HIV-infected BLT mice can be latently infected and that this virus is integrated, activation inducible, and replication competent. The non-tumor-inducing phorbol esters prostratin and 12-deoxyphorbol-13-phenylacetate can each induce HIV ex vivo from these latently infected cells, indicating that this model can be used as a source of primary cells for testing latency activators. Finally, we show activation-inducible virus is still present following suppression of plasma viral loads to undetectable levels by using the antiretroviral drugs zidovudine, indinavir sulfate, and didanosine, demonstrating that this model can also be used to assess the in vivo efficacy of latency-purging strategies. Therefore, the HIV-infected BLT mouse should provide a useful model for assessment of HIV latency activators and approaches to eliminate persistent in vivo HIV reservoirs.
Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) enables long-term suppression of plasma HIV-1 loads in infected persons, but low-level virus persists and rebounds following cessation of therapy. During HAART, this virus resides in latently infected cells, such as resting CD4+ T cells, and in other cell types that may support residual virus replication. Therapeutic eradication will require elimination of virus from all reservoirs. We report here a comprehensive analysis of these reservoirs in fluids, cells, and tissues in a rhesus macaque model that mimics HAART in HIV-infected humans. This nonhuman primate model uses RT-SHIV, a chimera of simian immunodeficiency virus containing the HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT). Methods were developed for extraction, preamplification, and real-time PCR analyses of viral DNA (vDNA) and viral RNA (vRNA) in tissues from RT-SHIV-infected macaques. These methods were used to identify viral reservoirs in RT-SHIV-infected macaques treated with a potent HAART regimen consisting of efavirenz, emtricitabine, and tenofovir. Plasma virus loads at necropsy ranged from 11 to 28 copies of vRNA per ml. Viral RNA and DNA were detected during HAART, in tissues from numerous anatomical locations. Additional analysis provided evidence for full-length viral RNA in tissues of animals with virus suppressed by HAART. The highest levels of vDNA and vRNA in HAART-treated macaques were in lymphoid tissues, particularly the spleen, lymph nodes, and gastrointestinal tract tissues. This study is the first comprehensive analysis of the tissue and organ distribution of a primate AIDS virus during HAART. These data demonstrate widespread persistence of residual virus in tissues during HAART.
HIV-1 persists in infected individuals in a stable pool of resting CD4+ T cells as a latent but replication-competent provirus. This latent reservoir is the major barrier to the eradication of HIV-1. Clinical trials are currently underway investigating the effects of latency-disrupting compounds on the persistence of the latent reservoir in infected individuals. To accurately assess the effects of such compounds, accurate assays to measure the frequency of latently infected cells are essential. The development of a simpler assay for the latent reservoir has been identified as a major AIDS research priority. We report here the development and validation of a rapid viral outgrowth assay that quantifies the frequency of cells that can release replication-competent virus following cellular activation. This new assay utilizes bead and column-based purification of resting CD4+ T cells from the peripheral blood of HIV-1 infected patients rather than cell sorting to obtain comparable resting CD4+ T cell purity. This new assay also utilizes the MOLT-4/CCR5 cell line for viral expansion, producing statistically comparable measurements of the frequency of latent HIV-1 infection. Finally, this new assay employs a novel quantitative RT-PCR specific for polyadenylated HIV-1 RNA for virus detection, which we demonstrate is a more sensitive and cost-effective method to detect HIV-1 replication than expensive commercial ELISA detection methods. The reductions in both labor and cost make this assay suitable for quantifying the frequency of latently infected cells in clinical trials of HIV-1 eradication strategies.
The eradication of HIV-1 from infected individuals is stymied by the persistence of the virus in a stable reservoir of latently infected CD4+ T cells. Latently infected cells can be found in all HIV-1 infected individuals at a very low frequency and allow the virus to persist despite antiretroviral therapy for the lifetime of an infected patient. Current efforts are focused on identifying small molecules or immune strategies to eliminate these latently infected cells. To assess the efficacy of these elimination strategies in HIV-1 infected patients, we must be able to measure the size of the latent reservoir. While an assay developed previously in our lab can measure the size of this latent reservoir, it is too laborious and costly to be utilized in large-scale HIV-1 eradication trials. We have developed a rapid assay to measure the size of the HIV-1 latent reservoir more amenable to these eradication trials.
Latently infected cell reservoirs represent the main barrier to HIV eradication. Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) effectively blocks viral replication but cannot purge latent provirus. One approach to HIV eradication could include cART to block new infections plus an agent to activate latent provirus. NF-κB activation induces HIV expression, ending latency. Before activation, IκB proteins sequester NF-κB dimers in the cytoplasm. Three canonical IκBs, IκBα, IκBβ, and IκBε, exist, but the IκB proteins' role in HIV activation regulation is not fully understood. We studied the effects on HIV activation of targeting IκBs by single and pairwise small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown. After determining the relative abundance of the IκBs, the relative abundance of NF-κB subunits held by the IκBs, and the kinetics of IκB degradation and resynthesis following knockdown, we studied HIV activation by IκB knockdown, in comparison with those of known HIV activators, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), tetradecanoyl phorbol acetate (TPA), and trichostatin A (TSA), in U1 monocytic and J-Lat 10.6 lymphocytic latently infected cells. We found that IκBα knockdown activated HIV in both U1 and J-Lat 10.6 cells, IκBβ knockdown did not activate HIV, and, surprisingly, IκBε knockdown produced the most HIV activation, comparable to TSA activation. Our data show that HIV reactivation can be triggered by targeting two different IκB proteins and that IκBε may be an effective target for HIV latency reactivation in T-cell and macrophage lineages. IκBε knockdown may offer attractive therapeutic advantages for HIV activation because it is not essential for mammalian growth and development and because new siRNA delivery strategies may target siRNAs to HIV latently infected cells.
HIV-1 eradication from infected individuals has not been achieved with the use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) for a prolonged period of time. The cellular reservoir for HIV-1 in resting memory CD4+ T cells remains a major obstacle to viral elimination. The reservoir does not decay significantly over long periods of time but is able to release replication-competent HIV-1 upon cell activation. Residual ongoing viral replication may likely occur in many patients because low levels of virus can be detected in plasma by sensitive assays and transient episodes of viremia, or HIV-1 blips, are often observed in patients even with successful viral suppression for many years. Here we review our current knowledge of the factors contributing to viral persistence, the latent reservoir, and blips, and mathematical models developed to explore them and their relationships. We show how mathematical modeling can help improve our understanding of HIV-1 dynamics in patients on HAART and of the quantitative events underlying HIV-1 latency, reservoir stability, low-level viremic persistence, and emergence of intermittent viral blips. We also discuss treatment implications related to these studies.
HIV-1; HAART; low-level viremia; latency; viral reservoirs; blips; mathematical models
Persistence of the latent viral reservoir has been recognized as a major obstacle to eradicating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in infected individuals receiving antiretroviral therapy. It has been suggested that histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACis) may purge HIV in the latent viral reservoir. However, the effect of HDACis on the degree and extent of HIV expression in the latent viral reservoir has not been fully delineated. Here we demonstrate that HDACis do not induce HIV production in the latent viral reservoir of aviremic individuals. Therefore, alternative therapeutic strategies may be necessary to eliminate HIV in the latent viral reservoir.
In the setting of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), plasma levels of human immunodeficiency type-1 (HIV-1) rapidly decay to below the limit of detection of standard clinical assays. However, reactivation of remaining latently infected memory CD4+ T cells is a source of continued virus production, forcing patients to remain on HAART despite clinically undetectable viral loads. Unfortunately, the latent reservoir decays slowly, with a half-life of up to 44 months, making it the major known obstacle to the eradication of HIV-1 infection. However, the mechanism underlying the long half-life of the latent reservoir is unknown. The most likely potential mechanisms are low-level viral replication and the intrinsic stability of latently infected cells.
Here we use a mathematical model of T cell dynamics in the setting of HIV-1 infection to probe the decay characteristics of the latent reservoir upon initiation of HAART. We compare the behavior of this model to patient derived data in order to gain insight into the role of low-level viral replication in the setting of HAART.
By comparing the behavior of our model to patient derived data, we find that the viral dynamics observed in patients on HAART could be consistent with low-level viral replication but that this replication would not significantly affect the decay rate of the latent reservoir. Rather than low-level replication, the intrinsic stability of latently infected cells and the rate at which they are reactivated primarily determine the observed reservoir decay rate according to the predictions of our model.
The intrinsic stability of the latent reservoir has important implications for efforts to eradicate HIV-1 infection and suggests that intensified HAART would not accelerate the decay of the latent reservoir.
Purpose of review
Interest has re-emerged in approaches to eradicate HIV infection. A series of modifications of nucleosomal histones within chromatin are a key mechanism of HIV gene regulation that alters the recruitment of transcription factors to viral DNA. The balance of these histone modifications in the vicinity of the HIV LTR plays an important role in the maintenance of proviral quiescence in rare latently infected cells, and presents a target for therapies aimed at purging this reservoir of persistent HIV infection.
Altering the balance of acetylase and deacetylase activity within CD4+ lymphocytes using histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors, or other epigenetic drugs, has recently emerged as a promising approach to purge the reservoir of persistent infection. Multiple molecular mechanisms appear to underlie the establishment and maintenance of persistent, latent HIV infection, most frequently in the resting central memory CD4+ T cell. HDAC inhibitors perturb this balance, induce expression of integrated provirus, and may allow attack of this primary form of persistent HIV infection.
While HDAC inhibitors are a promising approach, a better understanding of relevant mechanisms of latency in vivo, and better tools to translate this knowledge into therapies are needed.
HIV; latency; resting CD4+ T cells; histone deacetylase inhibitor
HIV's ability to establish long-lived latent infection is mainly due to transcriptional silencing in resting memory T lymphocytes and other non dividing cells including monocytes. Despite an undetectable viral load in patients treated with potent antiretrovirals, current therapy is unable to purge the virus from these latent reservoirs. In order to broaden the inhibitory range and effectiveness of current antiretrovirals, the potential of bryostatin was investigated as an HIV inhibitor and latent activator. Bryostatin revealed antiviral activity against R5- and X4-tropic viruses in receptor independent and partly via transient decrease in CD4/CXCR4 expression. Further, bryostatin at low nanomolar concentrations robustly reactivated latent viral infection in monocytic and lymphocytic cells via activation of Protein Kinase C (PKC) -α and -δ, because PKC inhibitors rottlerin and GF109203X abrogated the bryostatin effect. Bryostatin specifically modulated novel PKC (nPKC) involving stress induced AMP Kinase (AMPK) inasmuch as an inhibitor of AMPK, compound C partially ablated the viral reactivation effect. Above all, bryostatin was non-toxic in vitro and was unable to provoke T-cell activation. The dual role of bryostatin on HIV life cycle may be a beneficial adjunct to the treatment of HIV especially by purging latent virus from different cellular reservoirs such as brain and lymphoid organs.
The persistence of transcriptionally silent but replication-competent HIV-1 reservoirs in Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART)-treated infected individuals, represents a major hurdle to virus eradication. Activation of HIV-1 gene expression in these cells together with an efficient HAART has been proposed as an adjuvant therapy aimed at decreasing the pool of latent viral reservoirs. Using the latently-infected U1 monocytic cell line and latently-infected J-Lat T-cell clones, we here demonstrated a strong synergistic activation of HIV-1 production by clinically used histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACIs) combined with prostratin, a non-tumor-promoting nuclear factor (NF)- κB inducer. In J-Lat cells, we showed that this synergism was due, at least partially, to the synergistic recruitment of unresponsive cells into the expressing cell population. A combination of prostratin+HDACI synergistically activated the 5′ Long Terminal Repeat (5'LTR) from HIV-1 Major group subtypes representing the most prevalent viral genetic forms, as shown by transient transfection reporter assays. Mechanistically, HDACIs increased prostratin-induced DNA-binding activity of nuclear NF-κB and degradation of cytoplasmic NF-κB inhibitor, IκBα . Moreover, the combined treatment prostratin+HDACI caused a more pronounced nucleosomal remodeling in the U1 viral promoter region than the treatments with the compounds alone. This more pronounced remodeling correlated with a synergistic reactivation of HIV-1 transcription following the combined treatment prostratin+HDACI, as demonstrated by measuring recruitment of RNA polymerase II to the 5'LTR and both initiated and elongated transcripts. The physiological relevance of the prostratin+HDACI synergism was shown in CD8+-depleted peripheral blood mononuclear cells from HAART-treated patients with undetectable viral load. Moreover, this combined treatment reactivated viral replication in resting CD4+ T cells isolated from similar patients. Our results suggest that combinations of different kinds of proviral activators may have important implications for reducing the size of latent HIV-1 reservoirs in HAART-treated patients.
Although highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection can reduce levels of HIV-1 RNA in plasma to below the limit of detection, replication-competent forms of the virus persist in all infected individuals. One form of persistence involves a stable reservoir of latent but potentially infectious virus that resides in resting memory CD4+ T cells. The mechanisms involved in maintaining this latent reservoir are incompletely understood. In the present study, we examined the dynamic characteristics of this reservoir in a cohort of children who developed drug-resistant HIV-1 as a result of extensive exposure to inadequately suppressive one- or two-drug regimens prior to the advent of HAART. We have previously shown that drug-resistant viruses selected by nonsuppressive pre-HAART regimens can enter and persist in this reservoir. We have extended these findings here by demonstrating that archival wild-type HIV-1 persists in this reservoir despite the fact that in these patients drug-resistant mutants have been favored by the selective conditions for many years. Phylogenetic analysis of replication-competent viruses persisting in resting CD4+ T cells revealed a striking lack of temporal structure in the sense that isolates obtained at later time points did not show greater sequence divergence than isolates from earlier time points. The persistence of drug-sensitive virus and the lack of temporal structure in the latent reservoir provide genetic evidence for the idea that HIV-1 can persist in a latent form free of selective pressure from antiretroviral drugs in long-lived resting memory CD4+ T cells. Although there may be other mechanisms for viral persistence, this stable pool of latently infected cells is of significant concern because of its potential to serve as a lasting source of replication-competent viruses, including the infecting wild-type form and all drug-resistant variants that have arisen subsequently.
Although highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has converted HIV into a chronic disease, a reservoir of HIV latently infected resting T cells prevents the eradication of the virus from patients. To achieve eradication, HAART must be combined with drugs that reactivate the dormant viruses. We examined this problem in an established model of HIV postintegration latency by screening a library of small molecules. Initially, we identified eight molecules that reactivated latent HIV. Using them as templates, additional hits were identified by means of similarity-based virtual screening. One of those hits, 8-methoxy-6-methylquinolin-4-ol (MMQO), proved to be useful to reactivate HIV-1 in different cellular models, especially in combination with other known reactivating agents, without causing T-cell activation and with lower toxicity than that of the initial hits. Interestingly, we have established that MMQO produces Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK) activation and enhances the T-cell receptor (TCR)/CD3 stimulation of HIV-1 reactivation from latency but inhibits CD3-induced interleukin-2 (IL-2) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) gene transcription. Moreover, MMQO prevents TCR-induced cell cycle progression and proliferation in primary T cells. The present study documents that the combination of biological screening in a cellular model of viral latency with virtual screening is useful for the identification of novel agents able to reactivate HIV-1. Moreover, we set the bases for a hypothetical therapy to reactivate latent HIV by combining MMQO with physiological or pharmacological TCR/CD3 stimulation.
In individuals with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection, a small reservoir of resting memory CD4+ T lymphocytes carrying latent, integrated provirus persists even in patients treated for prolonged periods with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). This reservoir greatly complicates the prospects for eradicating HIV-1 infection with antiretroviral drugs. Therefore, it is critical to understand how HIV-1 latency is established and maintained. In particular, it is important to determine whether transcriptional or posttranscriptional mechanisms are involved. Therefore, HIV-1 DNA and mRNAs were measured in highly purified populations of resting CD4+ T lymphocytes from the peripheral blood of patients on long-term HAART. In such patients, the predominant form of persistent HIV-1 is latent integrated provirus. Typically, 100 HIV-1 DNA molecules were detected per 106 resting CD4+ T cells. Only very low levels of unspliced HIV-1 RNA (∼50 copies/106 resting CD4+ T cells) were detected using a reverse transcriptase PCR assay capable of detecting a single molecule of RNA standard. Levels of multiply spliced HIV-1 RNA were below the limit of detection (<50 copies/106 cells). Only 1% of the HIV-1 DNA-positive lymphocytes in this compartment could be induced to up-regulate HIV-1 mRNAs after cellular activation, indicating that most of the proviral DNA in resting CD4+ T cells either carries intrinsic defects precluding transcription or is subjected to transcriptional control mechanisms that preclude high-level production of multiply spliced mRNAs. Nevertheless, by inducing T-cell activation, it is possible to isolate replication-competent virus from resting CD4+ T lymphocytes of all infected individuals, including those on prolonged HAART. Thus, a subset of integrated proviruses (1%) remains competent for high-level mRNA production after cellular activation, and a subset of these can produce infectious virus. Measurements of steady-state levels of multiply spliced and unspliced HIV-1 RNA prior to cellular activation suggest that infected resting CD4+ T lymphocytes in blood synthesize very little viral RNA and are unlikely to be capable of producing virus. In these cells, latency appears to reflect regulation at the level of mRNA production rather than at the level of splicing or nuclear export of viral mRNAs.
Although HAART can suppress plasma viral loads to undetectable levels, individuals infected with HIV-1 harbor latent reservoirs of integrated proviruses that re-emerge upon the cessation of drug treatment. The 2012 Keystone Symposium on Frontiers in HIV Pathogenesis, Therapy and Eradication highlighted the current understanding of latent infection and new methods to activate and target these reservoirs for eradication. This report focuses on a select few aspects of the discussion, including the extent that ongoing replication might contribute to the persistent viral reservoir, recent advances in activating the expression of latent proviruses, progress in developing effective animal models and potential avenues to eradicate the cells that constitute the latent reservoir.
HAART; HIV/AIDS; HIV-1 activation; HIV-1 replication; viral latency
HIV-1 persists in a latent state in resting CD4+ T lymphocytes of infected adults despite prolonged highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). To determine whether a latent reservoir for HIV-1 exists in infected children, we performed a quantitative viral culture assay on highly purified resting CD4+ T cells from 21 children with perinatally acquired infection. Replication-competent HIV-1 was recovered from all 18 children from whom sufficient cells were obtained. The frequency of latently infected resting CD4+ T cells directly correlated with plasma virus levels, suggesting that in children with ongoing viral replication, most latently infected cells are in the labile preintegration state of latency. However, in each of 7 children who had suppression of viral replication to undetectable levels for 1–3 years on HAART, latent replication-competent HIV-1 persisted with little decay, owing to a stable reservoir of infected cells in the postintegration stage of latency. Drug-resistance mutations generated by previous nonsuppressive regimens persisted in this compartment despite more than 1 year of fully suppressive HAART, rendering untenable the idea of recycling drugs that were part of failed regimens. Thus the latent reservoir for HIV-1 in resting CD4+ T cells will be a major obstacle to HIV-1 eradication in children.