Journal Article CRISPR/Cas9 system targeting regulatory genes of HIV-1 inhibits viral replication in infected T-cell cultures

Ophinni, Youdiil  ,  Inoue, Mari  ,  Kotaki, Tomohiro  ,  Kameoka, Masanori

8p.7784 , 2018-05-17 , Nature Publishing Group
The CRISPR/Cas9 system provides a novel and promising tool for editing the HIV-1 proviral genome. We designed RNA-guided CRISPR/Cas9 targeting the HIV-1 regulatory genes tat and rev with guide RNAs (gRNA) selected from each gene based on CRISPR specificity and sequence conservation across six major HIV-1 subtypes. Each gRNA was cloned into lentiCRISPRv2 before co-transfection to create a lentiviral vector and transduction into target cells. CRISPR/Cas9 transduction into 293T and HeLa cells stably expressing Tat and Rev proteins successfully abolished the expression of each protein relative to that in non-transduced and gRNA-absent vector-transduced cells. Tat functional assays showed significantly reduced HIV-1 promoter-driven luciferase expression after tat-CRISPR transduction, while Rev functional assays revealed abolished gpl20 expression after rev-CRISPR transduction. The target gene was mutated at the Cas9 cleavage site with high frequency and various indel mutations. Conversely, no mutations were detected at off-target sites and Cas9 expression had no effect on cell viability. CRISPR/Cas9 was further tested in persistently and latently HIV-l-infected T-cell lines, in which p24 levels were significantly suppressed even after cytokine reactivation, and multiplexing all six gRNAs further increased efficiency. Thus, the CRISPR/Cas9 system targeting HIV-1 regulatory genes may serve as a favorable means to achieve functional cures.

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