With the development of triple combination antiretroviral therapy, routine HIV treatment eliminates nearly all actively infected cells. Nevertheless, the small reservoir of latently infected cells, which can remain dormant for long periods of time before becoming active and producing new virus particles, represents a crucial barrier to completely curing the disease. Identifying markers that identify latently infected cells or the biochemical factors that control latency activation could enable the effective use of a ?shock and kill? strategy, where specific targeting or activation of latently infected cells eliminates the viral reservoir. Our recent work suggests that the global transcriptomic and epigenomic changes during hematopoietic differentiation affect viral latency and activation. Additionally, we recently found that global inhibition of histone deacetylase activity increases viral activation in these cells, further implicating epigenomic changes in activation. These results raise fundamental questions: What are the markers of latently infected cells? How do the transcriptomic and epigenomic state of a cell affect latency and activation? How does differentiation state relate to viral latency? Here, we leverage our experimental platform for identifying latently and actively infected cells, single cell transcriptome and epigenome sequencing, and our recently developed computational integration methods to investigate these questions. Our interdisciplinary team combines expertise in HIV basic science, HIV clinical treatment, and bioinformatics to develop an experimental and computational framework for integrated gene expression, chromatin accessibility, and lineage into a single picture of viral latency and activation. Specifically, this project will (1) use single-cell RNA-seq and single-cell ATAC-seq to map diversity of infected cells, (2) investigate the relationship between hematopoietic differentiation state and viral activation, (3) determine viral integration sites through single-cell RNA-seq, (4) computationally integrate single cell transcriptome and epigenome profiles, and (5) computationally infer cell lineage relationships among viral genomes and infected cells. To accomplish these goals, we will carry out the following aims: (1) Characterize lineage, transcriptomic and epigenomic diversity of single latently and actively infected primary cells. (2) Investigate latency and activation during in vitro differentiation. (3) Survey single cell diversity of re-activated and in vitro infected cells from cART-suppressed patients. Together, these aims will produce a comprehensive, integrated transcriptomic and epigenomic atlas of the HIV reservoir, identify DNA and RNA biomarkers of latency, and characterize clonal expansion patterns. Our work also develops a broadly applicable experimental and computational framework, laying a foundation for the discovery of novel insights into HIV latency and activation.
Combination antiretroviral therapy results in the elimination of nearly all actively infected cells. However, the small reservoir of remaining cells represents a crucial barrier to eradicating the infection. Discovery of markers that identify these cells or biochemical factors that facilitate their eradication could enable new strategies that will advance treatment approaches towards a cure.