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This article has been peer reviewed. It was published in: Viruses.

Volume 12, Issue 8, 8 August 2020.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.3390/v12080868

Copyright © 2020 by the authors.

Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


Human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) can either undergo a lytic pathway to cause productive systemic infections or enter a latent state in which the integrated provirus remains transcriptionally silent for decades. The ability to latently infect T-cells enables HIV-1 to establish persistent infections in resting memory CD4+ T-lymphocytes which become reactivated following the disruption or cessation of intensive drug therapy. The maintenance of viral latency occurs through epigenetic and non-epigenetic mechanisms. Epigenetic mechanisms of HIV latency regulation involve the deacetylation and methylation of histone proteins within nucleosome 1 (nuc-1) at the viral long terminal repeats (LTR) such that the inhibition of histone deacetyltransferase and histone lysine methyltransferase activities, respectively, reactivates HIV from latency. Non-epigenetic mechanisms involve the nuclear restriction of critical cellular transcription factors such as nuclear factor-kappa beta (NF-κB) or nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT) which activate transcription from the viral LTR, limiting the nuclear levels of the viral transcription transactivator protein Tat and its cellular co-factor positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb), which together regulate HIV transcriptional elongation. In this article, we review how T-cell receptor (TCR) activation efficiently induces NF-κB, NFAT, and activator protein 1 (AP-1) transcription factors through multiple signal pathways and how these factors efficiently regulate HIV LTR transcription through the non-epigenetic mechanism. We further discuss how elongation factor P-TEFb, induced through an extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-dependent mechanism, regulates HIV transcriptional elongation before new Tat is synthesized and the role of AP-1 in the modulation of HIV transcriptional elongation through functional synergy with NF-κB. Furthermore, we discuss how TCR signaling induces critical post-translational modifications of the cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9) subunit of P-TEFb which enhances interactions between P-TEFb and the viral Tat protein and the resultant enhancement of HIV transcriptional elongation.

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