Reactivation of latent HIV-1 provirus via targeting protein phosphatase-1

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Background: HIV-1 escapes antiretroviral drugs by integrating into the host DNA and forming a latent transcriptionally silent HIV-1 provirus. This provirus presents the major hurdle in HIV-1 eradication and cure. Transcriptional activation, which is prerequisite for reactivation and the eradication of latent proviruses, is impaired in latently infected T cells due to the lack of host transcription factors, primarily NF-κB and P-TEFb (CDK9/cyclin T1). We and others previously showed that protein phosphatase-1 (PP1) regulates HIV-1 transcription by modulating CDK9 phosphorylation. Recently we have developed a panel of small molecular compounds targeting a non-catalytic site of PP1. Results: Here we generated a new class of sulfonamide-containing compounds that activated HIV-1 in acute and latently infected cells. Among the tested molecules, a small molecule activator of PP1 (SMAPP1) induced both HIV-1 replication and reactivation of latent HIV-1 in chronically infected cultured and primary cells. In vitro, SMAPP1 interacted with PP1 and increased PP1 activity toward a recombinant substrate. Treatment with SMAPP1 increased phosphorylation of CDK9's Ser90 and Thr186 residues, but not Ser175. Proteomic analysis showed upregulation of P-TEFb and PP1 related proteins, including PP1 regulatory subunit Sds22 in SMAPP1-treated T cells. Docking analysis identified a PP1 binding site for SMAPP1 located within the C-terminal binding pocket of PP1. Conclusion: We identified a novel class of PP1-targeting compounds that reactivate latent HIV-1 provirus by targeting PP1, increasing CDK9 phosphorylation and enhancing HIV transcription. This compound represents a novel candidate for anti-HIV-1 therapeutics aiming at eradication of latent HIV-1 reservoirs.

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