To investigate potential mechanisms for HIV-1 proviral latency, we generated a set of chronically HIV-1 infected and stably long terminal repeat-chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (LTR-CAT)-transfected TE671/RD cells, and studied both their virus production and LTR-driven reporter gene expression. Established tissue culture models of retroviral latency in lymphoid and monocytoid cell lines have demonstrated that the induction of virus production is associated with a shift in HIV-1-specific mRNA from a predominance of singly and multiply spliced mRNA's to the production of full-length HIV-1 RNA. We found a similar pattern in TE671/RD cells, but in contrast to U1 and ACH2 cells, could not induce viral replication by exposure to phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) alone. We demonstrated instead that production of full-length viral RNA, viral replication, and LTR-driven CAT expression could be induced by exposure to sodium butyrate. The most proximate effect of sodium butyrate is inhibition of cellular histone deacetylase(s) which results in disruption of nucleosomes relieving one level of restriction to gene expression. Consistent with this mechanism of action, we further found that sodium butyrate's effects: (i) act synergistically with PMA and TNF-α; (ii) are independent of protein synthesis; (iii) do not affect the constitutively expressed creatine phosphokinase gene; (iv) do not map to a discrete sequence motif in the viral LTR; and (v) are not blocked by N -acetyl cysteine but (vi) are blocked by novobiocin, an inhibitor of cellular topoisomerase II. These data show that a similar pattern of restricted viral RNA expression exists in this nonlymphoid cellular model of HIV-1 latency. In contrast however, these results suggest that in these cells there is an additional block to viral gene expression, which is overcome with sodium butyrate. These results are discussed in the context of histone-mediated repression of HIV-1 gene expression.
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