Transcriptional bursting from the HIV-1 promoter is a significant source of stochastic noise in HIV-1 gene expression

Biophys J. 2010 Apr 21;98(8):L32-4. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2010.03.001.


Analysis of noise in gene expression has proven a powerful approach for analyzing gene regulatory architecture. To probe the regulatory mechanisms controlling expression of HIV-1, we analyze noise in gene-expression from HIV-1's long terminal repeat (LTR) promoter at different HIV-1 integration sites across the human genome. Flow cytometry analysis of GFP expression from the HIV-1 LTR shows high variability (noise) at each integration site. Notably, the measured noise levels are inconsistent with constitutive gene expression models. Instead, quantification of expression noise indicates that HIV-1 gene expression occurs through randomly timed bursts of activity from the LTR and that each burst generates an average of 2-10 mRNA transcripts before the promoter returns to an inactive state. These data indicate that transcriptional bursting can generate high variability in HIV-1 early gene products, which may critically influence the viral fate-decision between active replication and proviral latency.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral / genetics*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • HIV Long Terminal Repeat / genetics
  • HIV-1 / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Models, Genetic
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics*
  • Stochastic Processes
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Green Fluorescent Proteins