Cellular Gene Modulation of HIV-Infected CD4 T Cells in Response to Serial Treatment with the Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor Vorinostat

J Virol. 2020 Jun 16;94(13):e00351-20. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00351-20. Print 2020 Jun 16.


Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) are the most widely studied HIV latency-reversing agents (LRAs). The HDACi suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (vorinostat [VOR]) has been employed in several clinical HIV latency reversal studies, as well as in vitro models of HIV latency, and has been shown to effectively induce HIV RNA and protein expression. Despite these findings, response to HDACi can vary, particularly with intermittent dosing, and information is lacking on the relationship between the host transcriptional response and HIV latency reversal. Here, we report on global gene expression responses to VOR and examine the longevity of the transcriptional response in various cellular models. We found that many genes are modulated at 6 h post-VOR treatment in HCT116, Jurkat, and primary resting CD4 T cells, yet return to baseline levels after an 18-h VOR-free period. With repeat exposure to VOR in resting CD4 T cells, we found similar and consistent transcriptional changes at 6 h following each serial treatment. In addition, serial exposure in HIV-infected suppressed donor CD4 T cells showed consistent transcriptional changes after each exposure to VOR. We identified five host genes that were strongly and consistently modulated following histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibition; three (H1F0, IRGM, and WIPI49) were upregulated, and two (PHF15 and PRDM10) were downregulated. These genes demonstrated consistent modulation in peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) samples from HIV-positive (HIV+) participants who received either single or multiple doses of 400 mg of VOR. Interestingly, the host transcriptional response did not predict induction of cell-associated HIV RNA, suggesting that other cellular factors play key roles in HIV latency reversal in vivo despite robust HDACi pharmacological activity.IMPORTANCE Histone deacetylase inhibitors are widely studied HIV latency-reversing agents (LRAs). VOR, an HDACi, induces histone acetylation and chromatin remodeling and modulates host and HIV gene expression. However, the relationship between these events is poorly defined, and clinical studies suggest diminished HIV reactivation in resting CD4 T cells with daily exposure to VOR. Our study provides evidence that VOR induces a consistent level of host cell gene transcription following intermittent exposure. In addition, in response to VOR exposure a gene signature that was conserved across single and serial exposures both in vitro and in vivo was identified, indicating that VOR can consistently and reproducibly modulate transcriptional host responses. However, as the HIV response to HDACi declines over time, other factors modulate viral reactivation in vivo despite robust HDAC activity. The identified host gene VOR biomarkers can be used for monitoring the pharmacodynamic activity of HDAC inhibitors.

Keywords: biomarker; gene expression; histone deacetylase inhibitors; human immunodeficiency virus; vorinostat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV-1 / metabolism
  • HIV-1 / pathogenicity
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / drug effects
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Virus Activation / drug effects
  • Virus Latency / drug effects
  • Vorinostat / metabolism
  • Vorinostat / pharmacology*


  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Vorinostat