The main obstacle to eradicating HIV-1 from patients is post-integration latency (Finzi et al., 1999). Antiretroviral treatments target only actively replicating virus, while latent infections that have low or no transcriptional activity remain untreated (Sedaghat et al., 2007). To eliminate viral reservoirs, one strategy focuses on reversing HIV-1 latency via 'shock and kill' (Deeks, 2012). The basis of this strategy is to overcome the molecular mechanisms of HIV-1 latency by therapeutically inducing viral gene and protein expression under antiretroviral therapy and to cause selective cell death via the lytic properties of the virus, or the immune system now recognizing the infected cells. Recently, a number of studies have described the therapeutic potential of pharmacologically inhibiting members of the bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) family of human bromodomain proteins (Filippakopoulos et al., 2010; Dawson et al., 2011; Delmore et al., 2011) that include BRD2, BRB3, BRD4 and BRDT. Small-molecule BET inhibitors, such as JQ1 (Filippakopoulos et al., 2010; Delmore et al., 2011), I-BET (Nicodeme et al., 2010), I-Bet151 (Dawson et al., 2011), and MS417 (Zhang et al., 2012) successfully activate HIV transcription and reverse viral latency in clonal cell lines and certain primary T-cell models of latency. To identify the mechanism by which BET proteins regulate HIV-1 latency, we utilized small hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) that target BRD2, BRD4 and Cyclin T1, which is a component of the critical HIV-1 cofactor positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb) and interacts with BRD2, and tested them in the CD4+ J-Lat A2 and A72 cell lines. The following protocol describes a flow cytometry-based method to determine the amount of transcriptional activation of the HIV-1 LTR upon shRNA knockdown. This protocol is optimized for studying latently HIV-1-infected Jurkat (J-Lat) cell lines.
Keywords: BRD2; BRD4 and Cyclin T1; Flow cytometry; HIV-1 LTR; Human immunodeficiency virus-1; J-Lat cells lines; Latency; Transcriptional activation; shRNA knockdown.