Epigenetic Regulation of HIV Latency

Investigator: Steven Deeks, MD
Sponsor: J. David Gladstone Institutes

Location(s): United States


A reservoir of latently infected cells remains in HIV-infected patients treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy treatment. Persistence of HIV in this latent reservoir has prevented full viral eradication. In order to understand and develop rational therapeutics to flush out HIV latency, the molecular mechanisms governing the phenomena of HIV latency need to be understood. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain HIV latency.

The identification of DNA methylation and other epigenetic modifications of the latent HIV genome highlights a novel mechanism for the suppression of HIV transcription. The demonstration that the DNA methylation inhibitor, aza-DcR, synergizes with prostratin or TNF- to reactivate latent HIV suggest that epigenetic modification could be used as a drug target in our effort to reactivate latent HIV. Recent experiments also indicate that cocaine use can induce prolonged epigenetic modifications in the brain and possibly in the immune system. Here we propose to study the role of epigenetic modifications in HIV latency and the possible role of drugs that modify epigenetic silencing as a novel therapeutic approach to induce the reactivation of latent HIV.