Recruitment of cyclin T1/P-TEFb to an HIV type 1 long terminal repeat promoter proximal RNA target is both necessary and sufficient for full activation of transcription.
Transcriptional activation of the HIV type 1 (HIV-1) long terminal repeat (LTR) promoter element by the viral Tat protein is an essential step in the HIV-1 life cycle. Tat function is mediated by the TAR RNA target element encoded within the LTR and is known to require the recruitment of a complex consisting of Tat and the cyclin T1 (CycT1) component of positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb) to TAR. Here, we demonstrate that both TAR and Tat become entirely dispensable for activation of the HIV-1 LTR promoter when CycT1/P-TEFb is artificially recruited to a heterologous promoter proximal RNA target. The level of activation observed was indistinguishable from the level induced by Tat and was neither inhibited nor increased when Tat was expressed in trans. Activation by artificially recruited CycT1 depended on the ability to bind the CDK9 component of P-TEFb. In contrast, although binding to both Tat and TAR was essential for the ability of CycT1 to act as a Tat cofactor, these interactions became dispensable when CycT1 was directly recruited to the LTR. Importantly, activation of the LTR both by Tat and by directly recruited CycT1 was found to be at the level of transcription elongation. Together, these data demonstrate that recruitment of CycT1/P-TEFb to the HIV-1 LTR is fully sufficient to activate this promoter element and imply that the sole role of the Tat/TAR axis in viral transcription is to permit the recruitment of CycT1/P-TEFb.
Bieniasz, PD; Grdina, TA; Bogerd, HP; Cullen, BR
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