Background: Examination of host cell-based inhibitors of HIV-1 transcription may be important for attenuating viral replication. We describe properties of a cellular double-stranded RNA binding protein with intrinsic affinity for HIV-1 TAR RNA that interferes with Tat/TAR interaction and inhibits viral gene expression.
Results: Utilizing TAR affinity fractionation, North-Western blotting, and mobility-shift assays, we show that the C-terminal variant of nuclear factor 90 (NF90ctv) with strong affinity for the TAR RNA, competes with Tat/TAR interaction in vitro. Analysis of the effect of NF90ctv-TAR RNA interaction in vivo showed significant inhibition of Tat-transactivation of HIV-1 LTR in cells expressing NF90ctv, as well as changes in histone H3 lysine-4 and lysine-9 methylation of HIV chromatin that are consistent with the epigenetic changes in transcriptionally repressed gene.
Conclusion: Structural integrity of the TAR element is crucial in HIV-1 gene expression. Our results show that perturbation Tat/TAR RNA interaction by the dsRNA binding protein is sufficient to inhibit transcriptional activation of HIV-1.