Scientific reports 2016 Oct 046() 34532 doi 10.1038/srep34532
The 5′ end of HIV-1 long terminal repeat (LTR) serves as a promoter that plays an essential role in driving viral gene transcription. Manipulation of HIV-1 LTR provides a potential therapeutic strategy for suppressing viral gene expression or excising integrated provirus. Subtype-specific genetic diversity in the LTR region has been observed. The minor variance of LTR, particularly in the transcription factor binding sites, can have a profound impact on its activity. However, the LTR profiles from major endemic Chinese subtypes are not well characterized. Here, by characterizing the sequences and functions of LTRs from endemic Chinese HIV-1 subtypes, we showed that nucleotide variances of Sp1 core promoter and NF-κB element are associated with varied LTR capacity for driving viral gene transcription. The greater responsiveness of Chinese HIV-1 B’-LTR for driving viral gene transcription upon stimulation is associated with an increased level of viral reactivation. Moreover, we demonstrated that the introduction of CRISPR/dead Cas9 targeting Sp1 or NF-κB element suppressed viral gene expression. Taken together, our study characterized LTRs from endemic HIV-1 subtypes in China and suggests a potential target for the suppression of viral gene expression and a novel strategy that facilitates the accomplishment of a functional cure.