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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Effect of Mutating RUNX1 Binding Site on HIV-1 Replication and Novel HIV-1 Latency Reversal through Using Clinically Prescribed Benzodiazepines
by Elbezanti, Weam Othman, Ph.D., University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, 2019, 150; 13862426
Abstract (Summary)

The major barrier to curing HIV-1 infection is latency. HIV-1 latent cells are those in which the viral genome has been integrated into the host cell genome but the virus does not produce the primary infectious agents, viral RNA and proteins. Latency can occur when the virus directly infects long-lived memory CD4+ T cells or infects active CD4+ T cells that have the potential to become memory T cells. The virus persists inside those cells as long as they are alive. This dormancy provides a reservoir of HIV-1 virus in memory T cells, which can cause infection relapse whenever antiretroviral therapy (ART) is discontinued. The situation is further complicated by the fact that multiple reservoirs of HIV-1 virus can be established at early stages of infection.

The major reservoir lies in the CD4+ T cells present in blood, lymph nodes and the spleen. Unfortunately, ART fails to target hidden HIV-1 virus that persists in resting T-cells. Furthermore, life-long ART use increases the chances that mutant virus will develop which will be resistant to continued therapy. Therefore, various studies have explored mechanisms to eradicate the latent HIV-1 reservoir. One proposed strategy to target this reservoir is known as “shock and kill”. The proposed shock and kill strategy initially “shocks” the HIV-1 virus out of latency with latency reversing agents (LRAs). The reactivated virus can then be controlled by ART and cytotoxic CD8+ T cells (CTLs), which kill the infected cells. Despite the great findings regarding reactivating HIV-1 latency in vitro and ex vivo, tested LRAs proved unsuccessful in reactivating HIV-1 virus in clinical trials.

Different factors can contribute to establishment of HIV-1 latency and different reservoirs in different immune cells and tissues are established early after HIV-1 infection. Therefore, synergy between multiple LRAs should be sought and studied for successful reactivation of the latent viral pool.

Runt Related Transcription Factor 1 (RUNX1) is a key transcription factor that is important during T cell development and has been shown to recruit different transcription factors in a context dependent manner. It has been shown to be involved in repressing various genes and it also interacts with chromatin modifiers that can alter the landscape of the chromatin and modify its compaction. Our lab has shown that there is a putative RUNX1 binding site on HIV-1 long terminal repeats (LTR) and the transfection of RUNX1 can suppress HIV-1 transcription. In addition, our lab has shown that the benzodiazepine, RO5-3335, which pharmacologically inhibits RUNX1, synergizes with vorinostat (SAHA), an HDAC inhibitor to reactivate latent HIV-1.

Using DNA cloning, an HIV-1 virus with a mutated RUNX1 binding site was constructed. Then, replication, infectivity and fitness of the mutated virus were examined and compared to a control virus using ELISA, RT, PCR, and TA cloning techniques. We have found that this mutated virus replicates faster and has more fitness and infectivity than the control virus with an intact RUNX1 binding site. Our results show that inhibition of RUNX1 binding to HIV-1 3’ long terminal repeat (LTR) positively affects viral replication and infectivity. This suggests that RUNX1 host transcription factor suppresses HIV-1 replication through its transcriptional repressor function and it possibly contributes to establishment of latency.

We screened clinically prescribed benzodiazepines (BDZs) to identify reactivators for latent HIV-1 virus. Using flow cytometry, we have found most of these BDZs synergized with SAHA in reactivation of latent HIV-1. Unlike the other BDZs tested, alprazolam was able to reactivate HIV-1 even when not in combination with SAHA. The effect of alprazolam on RUNX1 responsive genes was further investigated using qPCR. Alprazolam was found to affect RUNX1 responsive genes similarly to RO5-3335, a known RUNX1 inhibitor. The effect of alprazolam on IFNγ and TNFα that are produced from cytotoxic T cells (CTLs) was also examined. Alprazolam enhanced CTL function that was shown in the literature to be attenuated by SAHA. Thus, alprazolam successfully reverses HIV-1 latency and decreases the side effects of SAHA on CTL function when used in combination.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Klase, Zachary
Commitee: Adams, Jessica, Baird, Nathan, Myers, Kenneth, Tomsho, John W.
School: University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
Department: Cell & Molecular Biology
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-B 80/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Biology, Molecular biology
Keywords: Alprazolam, Benzodiazepines, HIV-1, Latency, RUNX1, Virus
Publication Number: 13862426
ISBN: 978-1-392-07590-6
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