Scientific reports 2017 09 067(1) 10657 doi 10.1038/s41598-017-10728-w
The principal barrier to the eradication of HIV/AIDS is the existence of latent viral reservoirs. One strategy to overcome this barrier is to use latency-reversing agents (LRAs) to reactivate the latent proviruses, which can then be eliminated by effective anti-retroviral therapy. Although a number of LRAs have been found to reactivate latent HIV, they have not been used clinically due to high toxicity and poor efficacy. In this study, we report the identification of a chalcone analogue called Amt-87 that can significantly reactivate the transcription of latent HIV provirses and act synergistically with known LRAs such as prostratin and JQ1 to reverse latency. Amt-87 works by activating the human transcriptional elongation factor P-TEFb, a CDK9-cyclin T1 heterodimer that is part of the super elongation complex (SEC) used by the viral encoded Tat protein to activate HIV transcription. Amt-87 does so by promoting the phosphorylation of CDK9 at the T-loop, liberating P-TEFb from the inactive 7SK snRNP, and inducing the formation of the Tat-SEC complex at the viral promoter. Together, our data reveal chalcones as a promising category of compounds that should be further explored to identify effective LRAs for targeted reversal of HIV latency.