Spontaneous reactivation of latent HIV-1 promoters is linked to the cell cycle as revealed by a genetic-insulators-containing dual-fluorescence HIV-1-based vector.
Long-lived latently HIV-1-infected cells represent a barrier to cure. We developed a dual-fluorescence HIV-1-based vector containing a pair of genetic insulators flanking a constitutive fluorescent reporter gene to study HIV-1 latency. The protective effects of these genetic insulators are demonstrated through long-term (up to 394 days) stable fluorescence profiles in transduced SUP-T1 cells. Analysis of 1,941 vector integration sites confirmed reproduction of HIV-1 integration patterns. We sorted monoclonal cells representing latent HIV-1 infections and found that both vector integration sites and integrity of the vector genomes influence the reactivation potentials of latent HIV-1 promoters. Interestingly, some latent monoclonal cells exhibited a small cell subpopulation with a spontaneously reactivated HIV-1 promoter. Higher expression levels of genes involved in cell cycle progression are observed in these cell subpopulations compared to their counterparts with HIV-1 promoters that remained latent. Consistently, larger fractions of spontaneously reactivated cells are in the S and G2 phases of the cell cycle. Furthermore, genistein and nocodazole treatments of these cell clones, which halted cells in the G2 phase, resulted in a 1.4-2.9-fold increase in spontaneous reactivation. Taken together, our HIV-1 latency model reveals that the spontaneous reactivation of latent HIV-1 promoters is linked to the cell cycle.