Our functional genomic RNAi screens have identified the protein components of the FACT (facilitates chromatin transcription) complex, SUPT16H and SSRP1, as top host factors that negatively regulate HIV-1 replication. FACT interacts specifically with histones H2A/H2B to affect assembly and disassembly of nucleosomes, as well as transcription elongation. We further investigated the suppressive role of FACT proteins in HIV-1 transcription. First, depletion of SUPT16H or SSRP1 protein enhances Tat-mediated HIV-1 LTR (long terminal repeat) promoter activity. Second, HIV-1 Tat interacts with SUPT16H but not SSRP1 protein. However, both SUPT16H and SSRP1 are recruited to LTR promoter. Third, the presence of SUPT16H interferes with the association of Cyclin T1 (CCNT1), a subunit of P-TEFb, with the Tat-LTR axis. Removing inhibitory mechanisms to permit HIV-1 transcription is an initial and key regulatory step to reverse post-integrated latent HIV-1 proviruses for purging of reservoir cells. We therefore evaluated the role of FACT proteins in HIV-1 latency and reactivation. Depletion of SUPT16H or SSRP1 protein affects both HIV-1 transcriptional initiation and elongation and spontaneously reverses latent HIV-1 in U1/HIV and J-LAT cells. Similar effects were observed with a primary CD4+ T cell model of HIV-1 latency. FACT proteins also interfere with HTLV-1 Tax-LTR-mediated transcription and viral latency, indicating that they may act as general transcriptional suppressors for retroviruses. We conclude that FACT proteins SUPT16H and SSRP1 play a key role in suppressing HIV-1 transcription and promoting viral latency, which may serve as promising gene targets for developing novel HIV-1 latency-reversing agents.
Keywords: CD4 T cell; FACT complex; RNA interference (RNAi); SSRP1; SUPT16H; host-pathogen interaction; human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); latency; transcription repressor; viral transcription.
© 2015 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.