Stable integrant-specific differences in bimodal HIV-1 expression patterns revealed by high-throughput analysis

PLoS Pathog. 2019 Oct 4;15(10):e1007903. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007903. eCollection 2019 Oct.


HIV-1 gene expression is regulated by host and viral factors that interact with viral motifs and is influenced by proviral integration sites. Here, expression variation among integrants was followed for hundreds of individual proviral clones within polyclonal populations throughout successive rounds of virus and cultured cell replication, with limited findings using CD4+ cells from donor blood consistent with observations in immortalized cells. Tracking clonal behavior by proviral "zip codes" indicated that mutational inactivation during reverse transcription was rare, while clonal expansion and proviral expression states varied widely. By sorting for provirus expression using a GFP reporter in the nef open reading frame, distinct clone-specific variation in on/off proportions were observed that spanned three orders of magnitude. Tracking GFP phenotypes over time revealed that as cells divided, their progeny alternated between HIV transcriptional activity and non-activity. Despite these phenotypic oscillations, the overall GFP+ population within each clone was remarkably stable, with clones maintaining clone-specific equilibrium mixtures of GFP+ and GFP- cells. Integration sites were analyzed for correlations between genomic features and the epigenetic phenomena described here. Integrants inserted in the sense orientation of genes were more frequently found to be GFP negative than those in the antisense orientation, and clones with high GFP+ proportions were more distal to repressive H3K9me3 peaks than low GFP+ clones. Clones with low frequencies of GFP positivity appeared to expand more rapidly than clones for which most cells were GFP+, even though the tested proviruses were Vpr-. Thus, much of the increase in the GFP- population in these polyclonal pools over time reflected differential clonal expansion. Together, these results underscore the temporal and quantitative variability in HIV-1 gene expression among proviral clones that are conferred in the absence of metabolic or cell-type dependent variability, and shed light on cell-intrinsic layers of regulation that affect HIV-1 population dynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology*
  • HIV Infections / genetics
  • HIV Infections / virology*
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Proviruses / genetics*
  • Transduction, Genetic
  • Virus Integration / genetics*
  • Virus Replication*