The general transcription factor P-TEFb, consisting of Cdk9 and cyclin T, strongly stimulates RNA polymerase II elongation. It is also a host cell cofactor for Tat activation of HIV-1 transcription. Accumulating evidence suggests that Tat and the TAR RNA, located at the 5'end of all viral transcripts, not only recruit P-TEFb to the HIV-1 LTR but also cause the activation of Cdk9 kinase. For general transcription of cellular genes, data obtained during the current funding period indicate that P-TEFb is recruited to chromatin templates by the bromodomain protein Brd4. In addition, a major reservoir of nuclear P-TEFb is sequestered in the inactive 7SK snRNP. Further analyses indicate that in response to Ca2+-signaling, P-TEFb is released from 7SK snRNP upon the dephosphorylation of the conserved Cdk9 T-loop by PP1? and PP2B. The dephosphorylated P- TEFb is preferentially bound by Brd4, which recruits it to the transcription pre-initiation complex. As the phosphorylation of Cdk9 T-loop is essential for P-TEFb activity, the T-loop is expected to undergo rephosphorylation by an as yet unidentified Cdk activating kinase (CAK) at a later stage in order to restore full activity to P-TEFb. Given that P-TEFb is essential for productive HIV-1 infection, the objective of this proposal is to examine how the various modes of P-TEFb regulation exerted by its associated factors, a putative Cdk9-specific CAK and the HIV-1 Tat/TAR will impact HIV-1 transcription and replication. Proposed are experiments to investigate whether the expression and activity of various P-TEFb-associated factors can be manipulated to control HIV-1 replication and latency. A combination of targeted investigations and comprehensive, unbiased screens will be employed to identify the Cdk9-specific CAK and elucidate the mechanism and functional significance of its phosphorylation of P-TEFb. To determine the mechanism of Tat/TAR activation of P-TEFb, the impact of Tat/TAR on phosphorylation status of the Cdk9 T-loop at different stages of HIV-1 transcription, the possible existence of novel components within the Tat-TAR-P-TEFb complex, and the ability of TFIIH and TAF7 to inhibit P-TEFb activation will be examined. These experiments will offer an exciting opportunity to identify novel factors that contribute to the activation of P-TEFb and HIV-1 transcription and provide fresh insights into how P-TEFb stimulates transcription of both HIV-1 and cellular genes. A better understanding of the mechanism by which P-TEFb controls HIV-1 replication and latency and the versatility of Tat/TAR in modulating this process will be informative toward the identification of new targets for anti-HIV therapy.
The Cdk9-cyclin T1 heterodimer of P-TEFb is a host cell cofactor for Tat activation of HIV-1 transcription. The proposed experiments will allow us to investigate how the P-TEFb-dependent HIV-1 transcription and replication can be controlled by: (1) the various P-TEFb-associated cellular factors;(2) a putative Cdk9 activating kinase;and (3) the HIV-1 Tat protein and TAR RNA that can do more than simply recruiting P-TEFb to the viral LTR. These experiments will lead to the identification of novel factors that contribute to the activation of P-TEFb and HIV-1 transcription and provide fresh insights into how P-TEFb controls transcriptional elongation of both HIV-1 and cellular genes. A better understanding of the mechanism by which P-TEFb regulates HIV-1 replication and latency and the versatility of Tat/TAR in modulating this process may lead to the identification of new targets for anti-HIV therapy.
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