HIV-1 latency is characterized by reversible silencing of viral transcription driven by the long terminal repeat (LTR) promoter of HIV-1. Cellular and viral factors regulating LTR activity contribute to HIV-1 latency, and certain repressive cellular factors modulate viral transcription silencing. Nef-associated factor 1 (Naf1) is a host nucleocytoplasmic shuttling protein that regulates multiple cellular signaling pathways and HIV-1 production. We recently reported that nuclear Naf1 promoted nuclear export of unspliced HIV-1 gag mRNA, leading to increased Gag production. Here we demonstrate new functions of Naf1 in regulating HIV-1 persistence. We found that Naf1 contributes to the maintenance of HIV-1 latency by inhibiting LTR-driven HIV-1 gene transcription in a nuclear factor kappa B-dependent manner. Interestingly, Naf1 knockdown significantly enhanced viral reactivation in both latently HIV-1-infected Jurkat T cells and primary central memory CD4(+) T cells. Furthermore, Naf1 knockdown in resting CD4(+) T cells from HIV-1-infected individuals treated with antiretroviral therapy significantly increased viral reactivation upon T-cell activation, suggesting an important role of Naf1 in modulating HIV-1 latency in vivo Our findings provide new insights for a better understanding of HIV-1 latency and suggest that inhibition of Naf1 activity to activate latently HIV-1-infected cells may be a potential therapeutic strategy.
HIV-1 latency is characterized mainly by a reversible silencing of LTR promoter-driven transcription of an integrated provirus. Cellular and viral proteins regulating LTR activity contribute to the modulation of HIV-1 latency. In this study, we found that the host protein Naf1 inhibited HIV-1 LTR-driven transcription of HIV genes and contributed to the maintenance of HIV-1 latency. Our findings provide new insights into the effects of host modulation on HIV-1 latency, which may lead to a potential therapeutic strategy for HIV persistence by targeting the Naf1 protein.