An In-Depth Comparison of Latency-Reversing Agent Combinations in Various In Vitro and Ex Vivo HIV-1 Latency Models Identified Bryostatin-1+JQ1 and Ingenol-B+JQ1 to Potently Reactivate Viral Gene Expression

PLoS Pathog. 2015 Jul 30;11(7):e1005063. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1005063. eCollection 2015 Jul.


The persistence of latently infected cells in patients under combinatory antiretroviral therapy (cART) is a major hurdle to HIV-1 eradication. Strategies to purge these reservoirs are needed and activation of viral gene expression in latently infected cells is one promising strategy. Bromodomain and Extraterminal (BET) bromodomain inhibitors (BETi) are compounds able to reactivate latent proviruses in a positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb)-dependent manner. In this study, we tested the reactivation potential of protein kinase C (PKC) agonists (prostratin, bryostatin-1 and ingenol-B), which are known to activate NF-κB signaling pathway as well as P-TEFb, used alone or in combination with P-TEFb-releasing agents (HMBA and BETi (JQ1, I-BET, I-BET151)). Using in vitro HIV-1 post-integration latency model cell lines of T-lymphoid and myeloid lineages, we demonstrated that PKC agonists and P-TEFb-releasing agents alone acted as potent latency-reversing agents (LRAs) and that their combinations led to synergistic activation of HIV-1 expression at the viral mRNA and protein levels. Mechanistically, combined treatments led to higher activations of P-TEFb and NF-κB than the corresponding individual drug treatments. Importantly, we observed in ex vivo cultures of CD8+-depleted PBMCs from 35 cART-treated HIV-1+ aviremic patients that the percentage of reactivated cultures following combinatory bryostatin-1+JQ1 treatment was identical to the percentage observed with anti-CD3+anti-CD28 antibodies positive control stimulation. Remarkably, in ex vivo cultures of resting CD4+ T cells isolated from 15 HIV-1+ cART-treated aviremic patients, the combinations bryostatin-1+JQ1 and ingenol-B+JQ1 released infectious viruses to levels similar to that obtained with the positive control stimulation. The potent effects of these two combination treatments were already detected 24 hours post-stimulation. These results constitute the first demonstration of LRA combinations exhibiting such a potent effect and represent a proof-of-concept for the co-administration of two different types of LRAs as a potential strategy to reduce the size of the latent HIV-1 reservoirs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bryostatins / pharmacology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology*
  • Diterpenes / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral / drug effects*
  • HIV-1 / drug effects*
  • HIV-1 / physiology
  • Humans
  • Positive Transcriptional Elongation Factor B / metabolism
  • Virus Activation / drug effects
  • Virus Latency / drug effects


  • Bryostatins
  • Diterpenes
  • bryostatin 1
  • Positive Transcriptional Elongation Factor B
  • ingenol

Grant support

We acknowledge grant support from the “Agence Nationale de Recherches sur le SIDA” (ANRS, France), the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (FRS-FNRS, Belgium), the “Fondation Roi Baudouin”, the NEAT program, the Walloon Region (the Excellence Program “Cibles”) and the “Institut Universitaire de France (IUF)” (to OR). AK is a post-doctoral fellow of "Les Amis des Instituts Pasteur à Bruxelles, asbl". SB is a fellow of the Belgian « Fonds pour la Recherche dans l’Industrie et l’Agriculture (FRIA) ». BVD is an ANRS post-doctoral fellow. GD and CVL are Aspirant fellow and Research Director of the FRS-FNRS, respectively. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.