Virology 2017 06 21;506:34-44. Epub 2017 Mar 21.
Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA. Electronic address:
Various epigenetic marks at the HIV-1 5'LTR suppress proviral expression and promote latency. Cellular antisense transcripts known as long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) recruit the polycomb repressor complex 2 (PRC2) to gene promoters, which catalyzes trimethylation of lysine 27 on histone H3 (H3K27me3), thus promoting nucleosome assembly and suppressing gene expression. We found that an HIV-1 antisense transcript expressed from the 3'LTR and encoding the antisense protein ASP promotes proviral latency. Expression of ASP RNA reduced HIV-1 replication in Jurkat cells. Moreover, ASP RNA expression promoted the establishment and maintenance of HIV-1 latency in Jurkat E4 cells. We show that this transcript interacts with and recruits PRC2 to the HIV-1 5'LTR, increasing accumulation of the suppressive epigenetic mark H3K27me3, while reducing RNA Polymerase II and thus proviral transcription. Altogether, our results suggest that the HIV-1 ASP transcript promotes epigenetic silencing of the HIV-1 5'LTR and proviral latency through the PRC2 pathway.