A reservoir of HIV-1 is a major obstacle in eliminating HIV-1 in patients because it can reactivate in stopping antiretroviral therapy (ART). Histone modifications, such as acetylation and methylation, play a critical role in the organization of chromatin domains and the up- or downregulation of gene expression. Although many studies have reported that an epigenetic mechanism is strongly involved in the maintenance of HIV-1 transcriptional latency, neither the epigenetic control of viral replication nor how HIV-1 latency is maintained is not fully understood.
We re-analyzed a high throughput parallel DNA sequencing (ChIP-seq) data from previous work to investigate the effect of histone modifications, H3K4me3 and H3K9ac, on HIV-1 latency in terms of chromosome distribution. The outputs of ChIP-seq from uninfected CD4+ T cell lines and HIV-1 latently infected cells were aligned to hg18 using bowtie and then analyzed using various software packages. Certain chromosomes (16, 17, 19, and 22) were significantly enriched for histone modifications in both decreased and increased islands. In the same chromosomes in HIV-1 latently infected cells, 38 decreased and 41 increased islands from common islands of H3K4me3 and H3K9ac were selected for functional annotation. In Gene Ontology analysis, the 38 genes associated with decreased islands were involved in the regulation of biological process, regulation of cellular process, biological regulation, and purinergic receptor signaling pathway, while the 41 genes associated with increased islands were involved in nucleic acid binding, calcium-activated cation channel activity, DNA binding, and zinc ion binding. In Pathway Commons analysis, the 38 genes were strongly involved in the p63 transcription factor network, while the 41 genes were involved in the RNA polymerase III transcription termination pathway. Several genes such as Nuclear factor I X (NFIX) and TNF receptor association factor 4 (TRAF4) were selected as candidate genes for HIV latency. Especially, NFIX was highly expressed in HIV-1 latently infected cell lines and showed a dramatic reduction in expression after phorbol-13-myristate-12-acetate (PMA) treatment.
These results show that the unique enrichment of histone modifications and its linked genes in specific chromosomes might play a critical role in the establishment and maintenance of HIV-1 latency.