Scientific reports 2016 08 166() 31527 doi 10.1038/srep31527
The CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing method is comprised of the guide RNA (gRNA) to target a specific DNA sequence for cleavage and the Cas9 endonuclease for introducing breaks in the double-stranded DNA identified by the gRNA. Co-expression of both a multiplex of HIV-1-specific gRNAs and Cas9 in cells results in the modification and/or excision of the segment of viral DNA, leading to replication-defective virus. In this study, we have personalized the activity of CRISPR/Cas9 by placing the gene encoding Cas9 under the control of a minimal promoter of HIV-1 that is activated by the HIV-1 Tat protein. We demonstrate that functional activation of CRISPR/Cas9 by Tat during the course of viral infection excises the designated segment of the integrated viral DNA and consequently suppresses viral expression. This strategy was also used in a latently infected CD4+ T-cell model after treatment with a variety of HIV-1 stimulating agents including PMA and TSA. Controlled expression of Cas9 by Tat offers a new strategy for safe implementation of the Cas9 technology for ablation of HIV-1 at a very early stage of HIV-1 replication during the course of the acute phase of infection and the reactivation of silent proviral DNA in latently infected cells.