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Jean-Yves Sgro
Inst. for Mol.Virology
731B Bock Labs
1525 Linden Drive Madison, WI 53706

Table of Contents for this page:

  • Current Issue
  • Current Issue of Retrovirology

    Retrovirology - Latest Articles

  • Human endogenous retroviruses sustain complex and cooperative regulation of gene-containing loci and unannotated megabase-sized regions

  • Background: Evidence suggests that some human endogenous retroviruses and endogenous retrovirus-like repeats (here collectively ERVs) regulate the expression of neighboring genes in normal and disease states; e.g. the human globin locus is regulated by an ERV9 that coordinates long-range gene switching during hematopoiesis and activates also intergenic transcripts. While complex transcription regulation is associated with integration of certain exogenous retroviruses, comparable regulation sustained by ERVs is less understood.FindingsWe analyzed ERV transcription using ERV9 consensus sequences and publically available RNA-sequencing, chromatin immunoprecipitation with sequencing (ChIP-seq) and cap analysis gene expression (CAGE) data from ENCODE. We discovered previously undescribed and advanced transcription regulation mechanisms in several human reference cell lines. We show that regulation by ERVs involves long-ranging activations including complex RNA splicing patterns, and transcription of large unannotated regions ranging in size from several hundred kb to around 1 Mb. Moreover, regulation was found to be cooperatively sustained in some loci by multiple ERVs and also non-LTR repeats. Conclusion: Our analyses show that endogenous retroviruses sustain advanced transcription regulation in human cell lines, which shows similarities to complex insertional mutagenesis effects exerted by exogenous retroviruses. By exposing previously undescribed regulation effects, this study should prove useful for understanding fundamental transcription mechanisms resulting from evolutionary acquisition of retroviral sequence in the human genome.

  • Jaagsiekte sheep retrovirus infection of lung slice cultures

  • Background: Jaagsiekte sheep retrovirus (JSRV) is the causative agent of ovine pulmonary adenocarcinoma (OPA), a transmissible neoplastic disease of sheep. OPA is an economically important veterinary disease and is also a valuable naturally occurring animal model of human lung cancer, with which it shares a similar histological appearance and the activation of common cell signaling pathways. Interestingly, the JSRV Env protein is directly oncogenic and capable of driving cellular transformation in vivo and in vitro. Previous studies of JSRV infection in cell culture have been hindered by the lack of a permissive cell line for the virus. Here, we investigated the ability of JSRV to infect slices of ovine lung tissue cultured ex vivo. Results: We describe the use of precision cut lung slices from healthy sheep to study JSRV infection and transformation ex vivo. Following optimization of the culture system we characterized JSRV infection of lung slices and compared the phenotype of infected cells to natural field cases and to experimentally-induced OPA tumors from sheep. JSRV was able to infect cells within lung slices, to produce new infectious virions and induce cell proliferation. Immunohistochemical labeling revealed that infected lung slice cells express markers of type II pneumocytes and phosphorylated Akt and ERK1/2. These features closely resemble the phenotype of natural and experimentally-derived OPA in sheep, indicating that lung slice culture provides an authentic ex vivo model of OPA. Conclusions: We conclude that we have established an ex vivo model of JSRV infection. This model will be valuable for future studies of JSRV replication and early events in oncogenesis and provides a novel platform for studies of JSRV-induced lung cancer.

  • Long lasting control of viral rebound with a new drug ABX464 targeting Rev aamp;#8211; mediated viral RNA biogenesis

  • Background: Current therapies have succeeded in controlling AIDS pandemic. However, there is a continuing need for new drugs, in particular those acting through new and as yet unexplored mechanisms of action to achieve HIV infection cure. We took advantage of the unique feature of proviral genome to require both activation and inhibition of splicing of viral transcripts to develop molecules capable of achieving long lasting effect on viral replication in humanized mouse models through inhibition of Rev-mediated viral RNA biogenesis. Results: Current HIV therapies reduce viral load during treatment but titers rebound after treatment is discontinued. We devised a new drug that has a long lasting effect after viral load reduction. We demonstrate here that ABX464 compromises HIV replication of clinical isolates of different subtypes without selecting for drug resistance in PBMCs or macrophages. ABX464 alone, also efficiently compromised viral proliferation in two humanized mouse models infected with HIV that require a combination of 3TC, Raltegravir and Tenofovir (HAART) to achieve viral inhibition in current protocols. Crucially, while viral load increased dramatically just one week after stopping HAART treatment, only slight rebound was observed following treatment cessation with ABX464 and the magnitude of the rebound was maintained below to that of HAART for two months after stopping the treatment. Using a system to visualize single HIV RNA molecules in living cells, we show that ABX464 inhibits viral replication by preventing Rev-mediated export of unspliced HIV-1 transcripts to the cytoplasm and by interacting with the Cap Binding Complex (CBC). Deep sequencing of viral RNA from treated cells established that retained viral RNA is massively spliced but importantly, normal cellular splicing is unaffected by the drug. Consistently ABX464 is non-toxic in humans and therefore represents a promising complement to current HIV therapies. Conclusions: ABX464 represents a novel class of anti-HIV molecules with unique properties. ABX464 has a long lasting effect in humanized mice and neutralizes the expression of HIV-1 proviral genome of infected immune cells including reservoirs and it is therefore a promising drug toward a functional cure of HIV.

  • Balanced splicing at the Tat-specific HIV-1 3aamp;#8242;ss A3 is critical for HIV-1 replication

  • Background: The viral regulatory protein Tat is essential for establishing a productive transcription from the 5′-LTR promoter during the early phase of viral gene expression. Formation of the Tat-encoding mRNAs requires splicing at the viral 3′ss A3, which has previously been shown to be both negatively and positively regulated by the downstream splicing regulatory elements (SREs) ESS2p and ESE2/ESS2. However, using the novel RESCUE-type computational HEXplorer algorithm, we were recently able to identify another splicing enhancer (ESE5807-5838, henceforth referred to as ESEtat) located between ESS2p and ESE2/ESS2. Here we show that ESEtat has a great impact on viral tat-mRNA splicing and that it is fundamental for regulated 3′ss A3 usage. Results: Mutational inactivation or locked nucleic acid (LNA)-directed masking of the ESEtat sequence in the context of a replication-competent virus was associated with a failure (i) to activate viral 3′ss A3 and (ii) to accumulate Tat-encoding mRNA species. Consequently, due to insufficient amounts of Tat protein efficient viral replication was drastically impaired. RNA in vitro binding assays revealed SRSF2 and SRSF6 as candidate splicing factors acting through ESEtat and ESE2 for 3′ss A3 activation. This notion was supported by coexpression experiments, in which wild-type, but not ESEtat-negative provirus responded to higher levels of SRSF2 and SRSF6 proteins with higher levels of tat-mRNA splicing. Remarkably, we could also find that SRSF6 overexpression established an antiviral state within provirus-transfected cells, efficiently blocking virus particle production. For the anti-HIV-1 activity the arginine-serine (RS)-rich domain of the splicing factor was dispensable. Conclusions: Based on our results, we propose that splicing at 3′ss A3 is dependent on binding of the enhancing SR proteins SRSF2 and SRSF6 to the ESEtat and ESE2 sequence. Mutational inactivation or interference specifically with ESEtat activity by LNA-directed masking seem to account for an early stage defect in viral gene expression, probably by cutting off the supply line of Tat that HIV needs to efficiently transcribe its genome.

  • TRIM5aamp;#945; is a SUMO substrate

  • Background: The TRIM5α restriction factor interferes with retroviral infections by inhibiting an early step of viral replication. TRIM5α activity was recently proposed to be regulated by the SUMO machinery and one SUMO consensus conjugation site as well as three putative SUMO interacting motifs (SIMs) were identified within TRIM5α sequence. Whereas mutation of the SIM sequences was found to abolish TRIM5α antiviral activity, mutation of the consensus SUMO conjugation site did not affect its restriction capacity, although this putative site has never been shown to be actually a SUMO substrate.FindingsHere we further demonstrate that TRIM5α relies on the SUMO machinery to promote restriction, since SUMO1 overexpression enhances TRIM5α-mediated retroviral inhibition whereas knockdown of SUMO1 or E2 SUMO conjugating enzyme Ubc9 prevents restriction. Furthermore, we show for the first time that TRIM5α is SUMOylated both in vitro and in cellulo and that Lysine 10 is the main SUMOylation site. Mutation of the consensus SUMO conjugation motif in position 10 abrogated SUMOylation at this position, but did not disrupt TRIM5α antiviral activity. Conclusions: Altogether, our results confirm that the SUMO machinery is involved in TRIM5α-mediated retroviral restriction, and demonstrate that TRIM5α is a SUMO 1 and SUMO 2 substrate. The inability to abrogate TRIM5α antiviral activity by mutating its main SUMO conjugation motif supports the notion that non-covalent interaction with SUMO or SUMOylated proteins rather than TRIM5α direct SUMOylation is required.

  • Modulation of human endogenous retrovirus (HERV) transcription during persistent and llt;itggt;de novollt;/itggt; HIV-1 infection

  • Background: The human genome contains multiple LTR elements including human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) that together account for approximately 8–9% of the genomic DNA. At least 40 different HERV groups have been assigned to three major HERV classes on the basis of their homologies to exogenous retroviruses. Although most HERVs are silenced by a variety of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms, they may be reactivated by environmental stimuli such as exogenous viruses and thus may contribute to pathogenic conditions. The objective of this study was to perform an in-depth analysis of the influence of HIV-1 infection on HERV activity in different cell types. Results: A retrovirus-specific microarray that covers major HERV groups from all three classes was used to analyze HERV transcription patterns in three persistently HIV-1 infected cell lines of different cellular origins and in their uninfected counterparts. All three persistently infected cell lines showed increased transcription of multiple class I and II HERV groups. Up-regulated transcription of five HERV taxa (HERV-E, HERV-T, HERV-K (HML-10) and two ERV9 subgroups) was confirmed by quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR analysis and could be reversed by knock-down of HIV-1 expression with HIV-1-specific siRNAs. Cells infected de novo by HIV-1 showed stronger transcriptional up-regulation of the HERV-K (HML-2) group than persistently infected cells of the same origin. Analysis of transcripts from individual members of this group revealed up-regulation of predominantly two proviral loci (ERVK-7 and ERVK-15) on chromosomes 1q22 and 7q34 in persistently infected KE37.1 cells, as well as in de novo HIV-1 infected LC5 cells, while only one single HML-2 locus (ERV-K6) on chromosome 7p22.1 was activated in persistently infected LC5 cells. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that HIV-1 can alter HERV transcription patterns of infected cells and indicate a correlation between activation of HERV elements and the level of HIV-1 production. Moreover, our results suggest that the effects of HIV-1 on HERV activity may be far more extensive and complex than anticipated from initial studies with clinical material.

  • Identification and characterization of diverse groups of endogenous retroviruses in felids

  • Background: Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are genetic elements with a retroviral origin that are integrated into vertebrate genomes. In felids (Mammalia, Carnivora, Felidae), ERVs have been described mostly in the domestic cat, and only rarely in wild species. To gain insight into the origins and evolutionary dynamics of endogenous retroviruses in felids, we have identified and characterized partial pro/pol ERV sequences from eight Neotropical wild cat species, belonging to three distinct lineages of Felidae. We also compared them with publicly available genomic sequences of Felis catus and Panthera tigris, as well as with representatives of other vertebrate groups, and performed phylogenetic and molecular dating analyses to investigate the pattern and timing of diversification of these retroviral elements. Results: We identified a high diversity of ERVs in the sampled felids, with a predominance of Gammaretrovirus-related sequences, including class I ERVs. Our data indicate that the identified ERVs arose from at least eleven horizontal interordinal transmissions from other mammals. Furthermore, we estimated that the majority of the Gamma-like integrations took place during the diversification of modern felids. Finally, our phylogenetic analyses indicate the presence of a genetically divergent group of sequences whose position in our phylogenetic tree was difficult to establish confidently relative to known retroviruses, and another lineage identified as ERVs belonging to class II. Conclusions: Retroviruses have circulated in felids along with their evolution. The majority of the deep clades of ERVs exist since the primary divergence of felids’ base and cluster with retroviruses of divergent mammalian lineages, suggesting horizontal interordinal transmission. Our findings highlight the importance of additional studies on the role of ERVs in the genome landscaping of other carnivore species.

  • HIV-1 non-macrophage-tropic R5 envelope glycoproteins are not more tropic for entry into primary CD4+ T-cells than envelopes highly adapted for macrophages

  • Background: Non-mac-tropic HIV-1 R5 viruses are predominantly transmitted and persist in immune tissue even in AIDS patients who carry highly mac-tropic variants in the brain. Non-mac-tropic R5 envelopes (Envs) require high CD4 levels for infection contrasting with highly mac-tropic Envs, which interact more efficiently with CD4 and mediate infection of macrophages that express low CD4. Non-mac-tropic R5 Envs predominantly target T-cells during transmission and in immune tissue where they must outcompete mac-tropic variants. Here, we investigated whether Env+ pseudoviruses bearing transmitted/founder (T/F), early and late disease non-mac-tropic R5 envelopes mediated more efficient infection of CD4+ T-cells compared to those with highly mac-tropic Envs. Results: Highly mac-tropic Envs mediated highest infectivity for primary T-cells, Jurkat/CCR5 cells, myeloid dendritic cells, macrophages, and HeLa TZM-bl cells, although this was most dramatic on macrophages. Infection of primary T-cells mediated by all Envs was low. However, infection of T-cells was greatly enhanced by increasing virus attachment with DEAE dextran and spinoculation, which enhanced the three Env+ virus groups to similar extents. Dendritic cell capture of viruses and trans-infection also greatly enhanced infection of primary T-cells. In trans-infection assays, non-mac-tropic R5 Envs were preferentially enhanced and those from late disease mediated levels of T-cell infection that were equivalent to those mediated by mac-tropic Envs. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that T/F, early or late disease non-mac-tropic R5 Envs do not preferentially mediate infection of primary CD4+ T-cells compared to highly mac-tropic Envs from brain tissue. We conclude that non-macrophage-tropism of HIV-1 R5 Envs in vitro is determined predominantly by a reduced capacity to target myeloid cells via low CD4 rather than a specific adaptation for T-cells entry that precludes macrophage infection.

  • Integrase inhibitor reversal dynamics indicate unintegrated HIV-1 dna initiate llt;itggt;de novollt;/itggt; integration

  • Background: Genomic integration, an obligate step in the HIV-1 replication cycle, is blocked by the integrase inhibitor raltegravir. A consequence is an excess of unintegrated viral DNA genomes, which undergo intramolecular ligation and accumulate as 2-LTR circles. These circularized genomes are also reliably observed in vivo in the absence of antiviral therapy and they persist in non-dividing cells. However, they have long been considered as dead-end products that are not precursors to integration and further viral propagation. Results: Here, we show that raltegravir action is reversible and that unintegrated viral DNA is integrated in the host cell genome after raltegravir removal leading to HIV-1 replication. Using quantitative PCR approach, we analyzed the consequences of reversing prolonged raltegravir-induced integration blocks. We observed, after RAL removal, a decrease of 2-LTR circles and a transient increase of linear DNA that is subsequently integrated in the host cell genome and fuel new cycles of viral replication. Conclusions: Our data highly suggest that 2-LTR circles can be used as a reserve supply of genomes for proviral integration highlighting their potential role in the overall HIV-1 replication cycle.

  • The CRISPR/Cas9 system inactivates latent HIV-1 proviral DNA

  • Background: Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has transformed HIV-1 infection from a deadly disease to a manageable chronic illness, albeit does not provide a cure. The recently developed genome editing system called CRISPR/Cas9 offers a new tool to inactivate the integrated latent HIV-1 DNA and may serve as a new avenue toward cure.FindingsWe tested 10 sites in HIV-1 DNA that can be targeted by CRISPR/Cas9. The engineered CRISPR/Cas9 system was introduced into the JLat10.6 cells that are latently infected by HIV-1. The sequencing results showed that each target site in HIV-1 DNA was efficiently mutated by CRISPR/Cas9 with the target site in the second exon of Rev (called T10) exhibiting the highest degree of mutation. As a result, HIV-1 gene expression and virus production were significantly diminished with T10 causing a 20-fold reduction. Conclusions: The CRISPR/Cas9 complex efficiently mutates and deactivates HIV-1 proviral DNA in latently infected Jurkat cells. Our results also revealed a highly efficient Cas9 target site within the second exon of Rev that represents a promising target to be further explored in the CRISPR/Cas9-based cure strategy.
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