One of the most crucial steps in the life cycle of a retrovirus is the integration of the viral DNA (vDNA) copy of the RNA genome into the genome of an infected host cell. Integration provides for efficient viral gene expression as well as for the segregation of viral genomes to daughter cells upon cell division. Some integrated viruses are not well expressed, and cells latently infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) can resist the action of potent antiretroviral drugs and remain dormant for decades. Intensive research has been dedicated to understanding the catalytic mechanism of integration, as well as the viral and cellular determinants that influence integration site distribution throughout the host genome. In this review, we summarize the evolution of techniques that have been used to recover and map retroviral integration sites, from the early days that first indicated that integration could occur in multiple cellular DNA locations, to current technologies that map upwards of millions of unique integration sites from single in vitro integration reactions or cell culture infections. We further review important insights gained from the use of such mapping techniques, including the monitoring of cell clonal expansion in patients treated with retrovirus-based gene therapy vectors, or patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) on suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART). These insights span from integrase (IN) enzyme sequence preferences within target DNA (tDNA) at the sites of integration, to the roles of host cellular proteins in mediating global integration distribution, to the potential relationship between genomic location of vDNA integration site and retroviral latency.
Dynamic regulation of HIV-1 mRNA populations analyzed by single-molecule enrichment and long-read sequencing.
Alternative RNA splicing greatly expands the repertoire of proteins encoded by genomes. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is attractive for studying alternative splicing because of the efficiency and low cost per base, but short reads typical of NGS only report mRNA fragments containing one or few splice junctions. Here, we used single-molecule amplification and long-read sequencing to study the HIV-1 provirus, which is only 9700 bp in length, but encodes nine major proteins via alternative splicing. Our data showed that the clinical isolate HIV-1(89.6) produces at least 109 different spliced RNAs, including a previously unappreciated ~1 kb class of messages, two of which encode new proteins. HIV-1 message populations differed between cell types, longitudinally during infection, and among T cells from different human donors. These findings open a new window on a little studied aspect of HIV-1 replication, suggest therapeutic opportunities and provide advanced tools for the study of alternative splicing.
Defective HIV-1 proviruses are expressed and can be recognized by cytotoxic T lymphocytes, which shape the proviral landscape.
Despite antiretroviral therapy, HIV-1 persists in memory CD4(+) T cells, creating a barrier to cure. The majority of HIV-1 proviruses are defective and considered clinically irrelevant. Using cells from HIV-1-infected individuals and reconstructed patient-derived defective proviruses, we show that defective proviruses can be transcribed into RNAs that are spliced and translated. Proviruses with defective major splice donors (MSDs) can activate novel splice sites to produce HIV-1 transcripts, and cells with these proviruses can be recognized by HIV-1-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). Further, cells with proviruses containing lethal mutations upstream of CTL epitopes can also be recognized by CTLs, potentially through aberrant translation. Thus, CTLs may change the landscape of HIV-1 proviruses by preferentially targeting cells with specific types of defective proviruses. Additionally, the expression of defective proviruses will need to be considered in the measurement of HIV-1 latency reversal. Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.