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Biology  2012 

Strategies to Block HIV Transcription: Focus on Small Molecule Tat Inhibitors

DOI: 10.3390/biology1030668

Keywords: Tat, TAR, inhibitors, small molecule compounds, transcription, latency, chronic cells, HIV-1, HIV-2

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After entry into the target cell, the human immunodeficiency virus type I (HIV) integrates into the host genome and becomes a proviral eukaryotic transcriptional unit. Transcriptional regulation of provirus gene expression is critical for HIV replication. Basal transcription from the integrated HIV promoter is very low in the absence of the HIV transactivator of transcription (Tat) protein and is solely dependent on cellular transcription factors. The 5' terminal region (+1 to +59) of all HIV mRNAs forms an identical stem-bulge-loop structure called the Transactivation Responsive (TAR) element. Once Tat is made, it binds to TAR and drastically activates transcription from the HIV LTR promoter. Mutations in either the Tat protein or TAR sequence usually affect HIV replication, indicating a strong requirement for their conservation. The necessity of the Tat-mediated transactivation cascade for robust HIV replication renders Tat one of the most desirable targets for transcriptional therapy against HIV replication. Screening based on inhibition of the Tat-TAR interaction has identified a number of potential compounds, but none of them are currently used as therapeutics, partly because these agents are not easily delivered for an efficient therapy, emphasizing the need for small molecule compounds. Here we will give an overview of the different strategies used to inhibit HIV transcription and review the current repertoire of small molecular weight compounds that target HIV transcription.


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