Scientific reports 2017 03 247() 45244 doi 10.1038/srep45244
G-quadruplexes are four-stranded conformations of nucleic acids that act as cellular epigenetic regulators. A dynamic G-quadruplex forming region in the HIV-1 LTR promoter represses HIV-1 transcription when in the folded conformation. This activity is enhanced by nucleolin, which induces and stabilizes the HIV-1 LTR G-quadruplexes. In this work by a combined pull-down/mass spectrometry approach, we consistently found hnRNP A2/B1 as an additional LTR-G-quadruplex interacting protein. Surface plasmon resonance confirmed G-quadruplex specificity over linear sequences and fluorescence resonance energy transfer analysis indicated that hnRNP A2/B1 is able to efficiently unfold the LTR G-quadruplexes. Evaluation of the thermal stability of the LTR G-quadruplexes in different-length oligonucleotides showed that the protein is fit to be most active in the LTR full-length environment. When hnRNP A2/B1 was silenced in cells, LTR activity decreased, indicating that the protein acts as a HIV-1 transcription activator. Our data highlight a tightly regulated control of transcription based on G-quadruplex folding/unfolding, which depends on interacting cellular proteins. These findings provide a deeper understanding of the viral transcription mechanism and may pave the way to the development of drugs effective against the integrated HIV-1, present both in actively and latently infected cells.