HIV integration sites and implications for maintenance of the reservoir

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Purpose of review

To provide an overview of recent research of how HIV integration relates to productive and latent infection and implications for cure strategies.

Recent findings

How and where HIV integrates provides new insights into how HIV persists on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Clonal expansion of infected cells with the same integration site demonstrates that T-cell proliferation is an important factor in HIV persistence, however, the driver of proliferation remains unclear. Clones with identical integration sites harbouring defective provirus can accumulate in HIV-infected individuals on ART and defective proviruses can express RNA and produce protein. HIV integration sites differ in clonally expanded and nonexpanded cells and in latently and productively infected cells and this influences basal and inducible transcription. There is a growing number of cellular proteins that can alter the pattern of integration to favour latency. Understanding these pathways may identify new interventions to eliminate latently infected cells.


Using advances in analysing HIV integration sites, T-cell proliferation of latently infected cells is thought to play a major role in HIV persistence. Clonal expansion has been demonstrated with both defective and intact viruses. Production of viral RNA and protein from defective viruses may play a role in driving chronic immune activation. The site of integration may determine the likelihood of proliferation and the degree of basal and induced transcription. Finally, host factors and gene expression at the time of infection may determine the integration site. Together these new insights may lead to novel approaches to elimination of latently infected cells.

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