Novel role of UHRF1 in the epigenetic repression of the latent HIV-1.

Verdikt R. et al.

BACKGROUND: The multiplicity, heterogeneity, and dynamic nature of human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) latency mechanisms are reflected in the current lack of functional cure for HIV-1. Accordingly, all classes of latency-reversing agents (LRAs) have been reported to present variable ex vivo potencies. Here, we investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying the potency variability of one LRA: the DNA methylation inhibitor 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-AzadC). METHODS: We employed epigenetic interrogation methods (electrophoretic mobility shift assays, chromatin immunoprecipitation, Infinium array) in complementary HIV-1 infection models (latently-infected T-cell line models, primary CD4 T-cell models and ex vivo cultures of PBMCs from HIV individuals). Extracellular staining of cell surface receptors and intracellular metabolic activity were measured in drug-treated cells. HIV-1 expression in reactivation studies was explored by combining the measures of capsid p24 protein, green fluorescence protein signal, intracellular and extracellular viral RNA and viral DNA. FINDINGS: We uncovered specific demethylation CpG signatures induced by 5-AzadC in the HIV-1 promoter. By analyzing the binding modalities to these CpG, we revealed the recruitment of the epigenetic integrator Ubiquitin-like with PHD and RING finger domain 1 (UHRF1) to the HIV-1 promoter. We showed that UHRF1 redundantly binds to the HIV-1 promoter with different binding modalities where DNA methylation was either non-essential, essential or enhancing UHRF1 binding. We further demonstrated the role of UHRF1 in the epigenetic repression of the latent viral promoter by a concerted control of DNA and histone methylations. INTERPRETATION: A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of HIV-1 latency allows for the development of innovative antiviral strategies. As a proof-of-concept, we showed that pharmacological inhibition of UHRF1 in ex vivo HIV patient cell cultures resulted in potent viral reactivation from latency. Together, we identify UHRF1 as a novel actor in HIV-1 epigenetic silencing and highlight that it constitutes a new molecular target for HIV-1 cure strategies. FUNDING: Funding was provided by the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.-FNRS, Belgium), the « Fondation Roi Baudouin », the NEAT (European AIDS Treatment Network) program, the Internationale Brachet Stiftung, ViiV Healthcare, the Télévie, the Walloon Region (« Fonds de Maturation »), « Les Amis des Instituts Pasteur à Bruxelles, asbl », the University of Brussels (Action de Recherche Concertée ULB grant), the Marie Skodowska Curie COFUND action, the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 691119-EU4HIVCURE-H2020-MSCA-RISE-2015, the French Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis (ANRS), the Sidaction and the "Alsace contre le Cancer" Foundation. This work is supported by 1UM1AI164562-01, co-funded by National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.


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May, 2022


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