Acetylation of Cytidine Residues Boosts HIV-1 Gene Expression by Increasing Viral RNA Stability

Cell Host Microbe. 2020 Aug 12;28(2):306-312.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2020.05.011. Epub 2020 Jun 12.


Epitranscriptomic RNA modifications, including methylation of adenine and cytidine residues, are now recognized as key regulators of both cellular and viral mRNA function. Moreover, acetylation of the N4 position of cytidine (ac4C) was recently reported to increase the translation and stability of cellular mRNAs. Here, we show that ac4C and N-acetyltransferase 10 (NAT10), the enzyme that adds ac4C to RNAs, have been subverted by human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) to increase viral gene expression. HIV-1 transcripts are modified with ac4C at multiple discrete sites, and silent mutagenesis of these ac4C sites led to decreased HIV-1 gene expression. Similarly, loss of ac4C from viral transcripts due to depletion of NAT10 inhibited HIV-1 replication by reducing viral RNA stability. Interestingly, the NAT10 inhibitor remodelin could inhibit HIV-1 replication at concentrations that have no effect on cell viability, thus identifying ac4C addition as a potential target for antiviral drug development.

Keywords: HIV-1; N-acetyltransferase 10; N4-acetylcytidine; NAT10; RNA modification; ac4C; epitranscriptomic; gene regulation; human immunodeficiency virus 1; retrovirus; virus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cytidine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral / genetics*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HIV-1 / genetics*
  • HIV-1 / growth & development
  • Humans
  • Hydrazones / pharmacology
  • Male
  • N-Terminal Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • RNA Stability / drug effects*
  • RNA Stability / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / genetics*
  • Thiazoles / pharmacology
  • Virus Replication / physiology


  • 4-(4-cyanophenyl)-2-(2-cyclopentylidenehydrazinyl)thiazole
  • Hydrazones
  • RNA, Viral
  • Thiazoles
  • Cytidine
  • N-Terminal Acetyltransferases
  • NAT10 protein, human