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Articles by Zeger Debyser in JoVE

 JoVE Clinical and Translational Medicine

A Novel Surgical Approach for Intratracheal Administration of Bioactive Agents in a Fetal Mouse Model

1Molecular Virology and Gene Therapy, KU Leuven, 2Department of Woman and Child, KU Leuven, 3Neurobiology and Gene Therapy, KU Leuven, 4Division of Nuclear Medicine, KU Leuven, 5Biomedical NMR Unit/ MoSAIC, KU Leuven


JoVE 4219

We developed a novel surgical approach for intratracheal administration of bioactive agents into the mouse fetus. The delivery route is more efficient in targeting the fetal mouse lungs than the commonly used intra-amniotic injection. This procedure has to date not been described in a mouse model.

Other articles by Zeger Debyser on PubMed

Characterization of Lentiviral Vector-mediated Gene Transfer in Adult Mouse Brain

Lentiviral vectors are promising tools for gene transfer into the central nervous system. We have characterized in detail transduction with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-derived vectors encoding enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) in the adult mouse brain. Different brain regions such as the striatum, hippocampus, and the lateral ventricle were targeted. The eGFP protein was transported anterogradely in the nigrostriatal pathway, but we have found no evidence of transport of the lentiviral vector particle. The performance levels of the different generations of packaging and transfer plasmid were compared. Omission of the accessory genes from the packaging plasmid resulted in a modest decrease in transgene expression. Inclusion of the woodchuck hepatitis posttranscriptional regulatory element, on the one hand, and the central polypurine tract and termination sequences, on the other hand, in the transfer vector each resulted in a 4- to 5-fold increase in transgene expression levels. Combination of both elements enhanced expression levels more than the sum of the individual components, suggesting a synergistic effect. In the serum of mice injected with lentiviral vectors a humoral response to vector proteins was detected, but this did not compromise transgene expression. Immune response to the transgene was found only in a minority of the animals.

DNA-induced Polymerization of HIV-1 Integrase Analyzed with Fluorescence Fluctuation Spectroscopy

Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) integrase is essential for viral replication. Integrase inserts the viral DNA into the host DNA. We studied the association of integrase to fluorescently labeled oligonucleotides using fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. The binding of integrase to the fluorescent oligonucleotides resulted in the appearance of bright spikes during fluorescence correlation spectroscopy measurements. These spikes arise from the formation of high molecular mass protein-DNA complexes. The fluorescence of the free DNA was separated from the spikes with a statistical method. From the decrease of the concentration of free oligonucleotides, a site association constant was determined. The DNA-protein complexes were formed rapidly in a salt-dependent manner with site association constants ranging between 5 and 40 microm(-1) under different conditions. We also analyzed the kinetics of the DNA-protein complex assembly and the effect of different buffer components. The formation of the fluorescent protein-DNA complex was inhibited by guanosine quartets, and the inhibition constant was determined at 1.8 +/- 0.6 x 10(8) m(-1). Displacement of bound DNA with G-quartets allowed the determination of the dissociation rate constant and proves the reversibility of the association process.

New Class of HIV Integrase Inhibitors That Block Viral Replication in Cell Culture

To improve the existing combination therapies of infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and to cope with virus strains that are resistant to multiple drugs, we initiated a search for effective inhibitors of HIV integrase, the enzyme responsible for inserting the viral cDNA into the host cell chromosome.

In Search of Authentic Inhibitors of HIV-1 Integration

Current strategies for the treatment of HIV infection are based on cocktails of drugs that target the viral reverse transcriptase or protease enzymes. At present, the clinical benefit of this combination therapy for HIV-infected patients is considerable, although it is not clear how long this effect will last taking into account the emergence of multiple drug-resistant viral strains. Addition of new anti-HIV drugs targeting additional steps of the viral replication cycle may increase the potency of inhibition and prevent resistance development. During HIV replication, integration of the viral genome into the cellular chromosome is an essential step catalysed by the viral integrase. Although HIV integrase is an attractive target for antiviral therapy, so far all research efforts have led to the identification of only one series of compounds that selectively inhibit the integration step during HIV replication, namely the diketo acids. In this review we try to address the question why it has proven so difficult to find potent and selective integrase inhibitors. We point to potential pitfalls in defining an inhibitor as an authentic integrase inhibitor, and propose new strategies and technologies for the discovery of authentic HIV integration inhibitors.

Inhibition of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Integration by Diketo Derivatives

A series of diketo derivatives was found to inhibit human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) integrase activity. Only L-708,906 inhibited the replication of HIV-1(III(B)) (50% effective concentration, 12 micro M), HIV-1 clinical strains, HIV-1 strains resistant to reverse transcriptase or fusion inhibitors, HIV-2 (ROD strain) and simian immunodeficiency virus (MAC(251)). The combinations of L-708,906 with zidovudine, nevirapine, or nelfinavir proved to be subsynergistic. In cell culture, addition of L-708,906 could be postponed for 7 h after infection, a moment coinciding with HIV integration. Inhibition of integration in cell culture was confirmed by quantitative Alu-PCR.

Env Chimeric Virus Technology for Evaluating Human Immunodeficiency Virus Susceptibility to Entry Inhibitors

We describe the development of chimeric virus technology (CVT) for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1 (HIV-1) env genes gp120, gp41, and gp160 for evaluation of the susceptibilities of HIV to entry inhibitors. This env CVT allows the recombination of env sequences derived from different strains into a proviral wild-type HIV-1 clone (clone NL4.3) from which the corresponding env gene has been deleted. An HIV-1 strain (strain NL4.3) resistant to the fusion inhibitor T20 (strain NL4.3/T20) was selected in vitro in the presence of T20. AMD3100-resistant strain NL3.4 (strain NL4.3/AMD3100) was previously selected by De Vreese et al. (K. De Vreese et al., J. Virol. 70:689-696, 1996). NL4.3/AMD3100 contains several mutations in its gp120 gene (De Vreese et al., J. Virol. 70:689-696, 1996), whereas NL4.3/T20 has mutations in both gp120 and gp41. Phenotypic analysis revealed that NL4.3/AMD3100 lost its susceptibility to dextran sulfate, AMD3100, AMD2763, T134, and T140 but not its susceptibility to T20, whereas NL4.3/T20 lost its susceptibility only to the inhibitory effect of T20. The recombination of gp120 of NL4.3/AMD3100 and gp41 of NL4.3/T20 or recombination of the gp160 genes of both strains into a wild-type background reproduced the phenotypic (cross-)resistance profiles of the corresponding strains selected in vitro. These data imply that mutations in gp120 alone are sufficient to reproduce the resistance profile of NL4.3/AMD3100. The same can be said for gp41 in relation to NL4.3/T20. In conclusion, we demonstrate the use of env CVT as a research tool in the delineation of the region important for the phenotypic (cross-)resistance of HIV strains to entry inhibitors. In addition, we obtained a proof of principle that env CVT can become a helpful diagnostic tool in assessments of the phenotypic resistance of clinical HIV isolates to HIV entry inhibitors.

HIV-1 Integrase Forms Stable Tetramers and Associates with LEDGF/p75 Protein in Human Cells

We studied human immunodeficiency virus, type 1 (HIV-1) integrase (IN) complexes derived from nuclei of human cells stably expressing the viral protein from a synthetic gene. We show that in the nuclear extracts IN exists as part of a large distinct complex with an apparent Stokes radius of 61 A, which dissociates upon dilution yielding a core molecule of 41 A. We isolated the IN complexes from cells expressing FLAG-tagged IN and demonstrated that the 41 A core is a tetramer of IN, whereas 61 A molecules are composed of IN tetramers associated with a cellular protein with an apparent molecular mass of 76 kDa. This novel integrase interacting protein was found to be identical to lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF/p75), a protein implicated in regulation of gene expression and cellular stress response. HIV-1 IN and LEDGF co-localized in the nuclei of human cells stably expressing IN. Furthermore, recombinant LEDGF robustly enhanced strand transfer activity of HIV-1 IN in vitro. Our findings indicate that the minimal IN molecule in human cells is a homotetramer, suggesting that at least an octamer of IN is required to accomplish coordinated integration of both retroviral long terminal repeats and that LEDGF is a cellular factor involved in this process.

Establishment of an in Vitro Assay System Mimicking Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1-induced Neural Cell Death and Evaluation of Inhibitors Thereof

Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-associated central nervous system disorders, including encephalopathy, often occur in the late stage of HIV-1 infection. Some inflammatory cytokines and HIV-1 antigens released from infected microglia or brain macrophages are considered to play an important role in neuropathogenesis. In this study, an in vitro assay system has been established for the evaluation of neural cell death, which would be predictive of the pathogenesis of neural cell death in vivo. The human neuroblastoma cell line SK-N-SH was differentiated to a neural phenotype with retinoic acid, while the promyelocytic cell line HL-60 and its HIV-1-infected clone OM-10.1 were differentiated to macrophages with phorbol myristate acetate. When neural (differentiated SK-N-SH) cells were cocultured with either uninfected or HIV-1-infected macrophages (differentiated HL-60 or OM-10.1 cells, respectively) for 3-5 days, significant neural cell death was observed in the cells cocultured with infected macrophages. Direct contact with macrophages was not necessary for the induction of neural cell death, since indirect coculture or coculture supernatants could also induce neural cell death. Large amounts of cytokines and chemokines were released in the coculture supernatants. The CXCR4 antagonist AMD3100 and the HIV-1 transcription inhibitor K-37 partially inhibited neural cell death. These results indicate that this system seems to be a useful tool for the evaluation of compounds against HIV-1-induced neural cell death.

Impact of the Central Polypurine Tract on the Kinetics of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Vector Transduction

Lentiviral vectors derived from human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) show great promise as gene carriers for future gene therapy. Insertion of a fragment containing the central polypurine tract (cPPT) in HIV-1 vector constructs is known to enhance transduction efficiency drastically, reportedly by facilitating the nuclear import of HIV-1 cDNA through a central DNA flap. We have studied the impact of the cPPT on the kinetics of HIV-1 vector transduction by real-time PCR. The kinetics of total HIV-1 DNA, two-long-terminal-repeat (2-LTR) circles, and, by an Alu-PCR, integrated proviral DNA were monitored. About 6 to 12 h after transduction, the total HIV-1 DNA reached a maximum level, followed by a steep decrease. The 2-LTR circles peaked after 24 to 48 h and were diluted upon cell division. Integration of HIV-1 DNA was first detected at 12 h postinfection. When HIV-1 vectors that contained the cPPT were used, DNA synthesis was similar but a threefold higher amount of 2-LTR circles was detected, confirming the impact on nuclear import. Moreover, a 10-fold increase in the amount of integrated DNA was observed in the presence of the cPPT. Only in the absence of the cPPT was a saturation in 2-LTR circle formation seen at a high multiplicity of infection, suggesting a role for the cPPT in overcoming a barrier to the nuclear import of HIV-1 DNA. A major effect of the central DNA flap on the juxtaposition of both LTRs is unlikely, since transduction with HIV-1 vectors containing ectopic cPPT fragments resulted in increased amounts of 2-LTR circles as well as integrated DNA. Inhibitors of transduction by cPPT-containing HIV vectors were also studied by real-time PCR. The reverse transcriptase inhibitor azidothymidine (AZT) and the nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor alpha-APA clearly inhibited viral DNA synthesis, whereas integrase inhibitors such as the diketo acid L-708,906 and the pyranodipyrimidine V-165 specifically inhibited integration.

N-aminoimidazole Derivatives Inhibiting Retroviral Replication Via a Yet Unidentified Mode of Action

The synthesis of a series of N-aminoimidazoles (NAIMs) with an uncommon spectrum of antiretroviral activity is described. From a group of 60 closely related molecules, we were able to subdivide the molecules in different groups based on their anti-HIV and anti-SIV activity in vitro: (i) molecules acting on a new, immediate postintegration step, (ii) molecules acting on both postintegration and HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) as NNRTI, and (iii) molecules that mainly act at the HIV-1 RT according to an NNRTI-type mode of action.

LEDGF/p75 is Essential for Nuclear and Chromosomal Targeting of HIV-1 Integrase in Human Cells

We have reported that human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) integrase (IN) forms a specific nuclear complex with human lens epithelium-derived growth factor/transcription co-activator p75 (LEDGF/p75) protein. We now studied the IN-LEDGF/p75 interaction and nuclear import of IN in living cells using fusions of IN and LEDGF/p75 with enhanced green fluorescent protein and far-red fluorescent protein HcRed1. We show that both the N-terminal zinc binding domain and the central core domains of IN are involved in the interaction with LEDGF/p75. Both domains are essential for nuclear localization of IN as well as for the association of IN with condensed chromosomes during mitosis. However, upon overexpression of LEDGF/p75, the core domain fragment of IN was recruited to the nuclei and mitotic chromosomes with a distribution pattern characteristic of the full-length protein, indicating that it harbors the main determinant for interaction with LEDGF/p75. Although the C-terminal domain of IN was dispensable for nuclear/chromosomal localization, a fusion of the C-terminal IN fragment with enhanced green fluorescent protein was found exclusively in the nucleus, with a diffuse nuclear/nucleolar distribution, suggesting that the C-terminal domain may also play a role in the nuclear import of IN. In contrast to LEDGF/p75, its alternative splice variant, p52, did not interact with HIV-1 IN in vitro and in living cells. Finally, RNA interference-mediated knock-down of endogenous LEDGF/p75 expression abolished nuclear/chromosomal localization of IN. We conclude, therefore, that the interaction with LEDGF/p75 accounts for the karyophilic properties and chromosomal targeting of HIV-1 IN.

Neuropathology and Neurodegeneration in Rodent Brain Induced by Lentiviral Vector-mediated Overexpression of Alpha-synuclein

Two mutations in alpha-synuclein, the main constituent of Lewy bodies, have been identified in familial Parkinson's disease. We have stereotactically injected lentiviral vectors encoding wild-type and A30P mutant human alpha-synuclein in different brain regions (striatum, substantia nigra, amygdala) of mice. Overexpression of alpha-synuclein induced time-dependent neuropathological changes reminiscent of Lewy pathology: abnormal accumulation of alpha-synuclein in cell bodies and neurites, alpha-synuclein-positive neuritic varicosities and cytoplasmic inclusions that stained with ubiquitin antibodies and became larger and more frequent with time. After one year, alpha-synuclein- and ubiquitin-positive neurons displayed a degenerative morphology and a significant loss of alpha-synuclein-positive cells was observed. Similar findings were observed with both the wild-type and the A30P mutant form of alpha-synuclein and this in different brain regions. This indicates that overexpression of alpha-synuclein is sufficient to induce Lewy-like pathology and neurodegeneration and that this effect is not restricted to dopaminergic cells. Our data also demonstrate the use of lentiviral vectors to create animal models for neurodegenerative diseases.

Development of Resistance Against Diketo Derivatives of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 by Progressive Accumulation of Integrase Mutations

The diketo acid L-708,906 has been reported to be a selective inhibitor of the strand transfer step of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) integration process (D. Hazuda, P. Felock, M. Witmer, A. Wolfe, K. Stillmock, J. A. Grobler, A. Espeseth, L. Gabryelski, W. Schleif, C. Blau, and M. D. Miller, Science 287:646-650, 2000). We have now studied the development of antiviral resistance to L-708,906 by growing HIV-1 strains in the presence of increasing concentrations of the compound. The mutations T66I, L74M, and S230R emerged successively in the integrase gene. The virus with three mutations (T66I L74M S230R) was 10-fold less susceptible to L-708,906, while displaying the sensitivity of the wild-type virus to inhibitors of the RT or PRO or viral entry process. Chimeric HIV-1 strains containing the mutant integrase genes displayed the same resistance profile as the in vitro-selected strains, corroborating the impact of the reported mutations on the resistance phenotype. Phenotypic cross-resistance to S-1360, a diketo analogue in clinical trials, was observed for all strains. Interestingly, the diketo acid-resistant strain remained fully sensitive to V-165, a novel integrase inhibitor (C. Pannecouque, W. Pluymers, B. Van Maele, V. Tetz, P. Cherepanov, E. De Clercq, M. Witvrouw, and Z. Debyser, Curr. Biol. 12:1169-1177, 2002). Antiviral resistance was also studied at the level of recombinant integrase. Single mutations did not appear to impair specific enzymatic activity. However, 3' processing and strand transfer activities of the recombinant integrases with two (T66I L74M) and three (T66I L74M S230R) mutations were notably lower than those of the wild-type integrase. Although the virus with three mutations was resistant to inhibition by diketo acids, the sensitivity of the corresponding enzyme to L-708,906 or S-1360 was reduced only two- to threefold. As to the replication kinetics of the selected strains, the replication fitness for all strains was lower than that of the wild-type HIV-1 strain.

Lentiviral Vector-mediated Delivery of Short Hairpin RNA Results in Persistent Knockdown of Gene Expression in Mouse Brain

RNA interference (RNAi) is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism of posttranscriptional gene-specific silencing. For in vivo applications, RNAi has been hampered until recently by inefficient delivery methods and by the transient nature of the gene suppression. Lentiviral vectors (LVs) hold great promise for gene therapeutic applications, pharmaceutical target validation, and functional genomics because stable gene transfer is mediated both in dividing and nondividing cells. We have used a lentiviral vector-based system for RNAi. We produced human immunodeficiency virus type 1-derived LVs encoding a short hairpin RNA specific for enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) mRNA that were capable of inhibiting EGFP expression in mammalian cells. EGFP knockdown persisted after multiple passages of the cells. Of particular interest, our RNAi LVs were equally effective in suppression and prevention of EGFP expression after stereotactic injection in adult mouse brain. Therefore, we believe that the use of LVs for stable RNAi in brain will become a powerful aid to probe gene function in vivo and for gene therapy of diseases of the central nervous system.

A Short Course on Virology / Vectorology / Gene Therapy

For people starting off in the field of gene therapy, the encountered terminology is often quite confusing. Moreover, the background on basic virology may be modest. The following introduction provides a head start to any novice willing to gain more in-depth knowledge on the subject. The development of gene therapy is also addressed from a historical perspective.

Biosafety of Lentiviral Vectors

The characteristics of lentiviral vectors (stable integration in non-dividing and dividing cells, long-term expression of the transgene, absence of immune response) make them ideal gene transfer vehicula for future gene therapy. However, the most potent lentiviral vectors are derived from highly pathogenic human viruses, such as HIV. We describe how the field has engineered lentivectors with increasing biosafety both for the lab worker and for the patient. The risk associated with state-of-the-art lentivectors is therefore minimal, although a psychological barrier to use these vectors in the clinic may still have to be overcome. Due to their increased performance, care should be taken to avoid accidental transduction of the lab worker with potential hazardous genes. The precautions which have to be taken are described in detail.

Expression of HIV-1 Integrase in CEM Cells Inhibits HIV-1 Replication

HIV-1 integrase (IN) is an interesting target for the gene therapy of AIDS. Although the in vivo functions are not well characterized, it is thought that IN has pleiotropic effects and plays a central role in the interplay between the virus and the host cell. Expression of IN in mammalian cells has proven difficult. We have previously established a 293T-derived cell line that stably expresses high levels of HIV-1 IN from a synthetic gene. We now have constructed CEM-derived cell lines stably expressing the enzyme or its different domains and studied the impact of IN expression on HIV-1 replication.

Identification and Characterization of a Functional Nuclear Localization Signal in the HIV-1 Integrase Interactor LEDGF/p75

Human lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF)/p75 protein forms a specific nuclear complex with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) integrase and is essential for nuclear localization and chromosomal association of the viral protein. We now studied nuclear import of LEDGF/p75 in live and semipermeabilized cells. We show that nuclear import of LEDGF/p75 is GTP-, Ran-, importin-alpha/beta-, and energy-dependent and that the protein competes with the canonical SV40 large T antigen nuclear localization signal (NLS) for nuclear import receptors. We identified the NLS of LEDGF/p75 through deletion analysis and site-directed mutagenesis. The LEDGF/p75 NLS, 148GRKRKAEKQ156, belongs to the canonical SV40-like family. Fusion of this short peptide to the amino terminus of Escherichia coli beta-galactosidase rendered the fusion protein nuclear, confirming that the LEDGF/p75 NLS is transferable. Moreover, a single amino acid change in the NLS was sufficient to exclude the mutant LEDGF/p75 protein from the nucleus and abolish nuclear import of HIV-1 integrase.

Efficient 3D Database Screening for Novel HIV-1 IN Inhibitors

We describe the use of pharmacophore modeling as an efficient tool in the discovery of novel HIV-1 integrase (IN) inhibitors. A three-dimensional hypothetical model for the binding of diketo acid analogues to the enzyme was built by means of the Catalyst program. Using these models as a query for virtual screening, we found several compounds that contain the specified 3D patterns of chemical functions. Biological testing shows that our strategy was successful in searching for new structural leads as HIV-1 IN inhibitors.

Multiple Mutations in Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 Integrase Confer Resistance to the Clinical Trial Drug S-1360

Study of HIV-1 resistance development to the diketo analogue S-1360, the first HIV-1 integrase strand transfer inhibitor that has entered clinical development.

Evaluation of the Activity of HIV-1 Integrase Over-expressed in Eukaryotic Cells

Since the integration of viral DNA in the host genome is an essential step in the replication cycle of HIV-1, an active search for inhibitors of the integration step is ongoing. Our laboratory has been working on the development of a cellular integration system. Such a system would be helpful in the study of the HIV-1 integration process and, eventually, could be used in the search for new inhibitors that selectively interfere with HIV integration. We have previously selected stable cell lines (293T-INS) that constitutively express high levels of HIV-1 integrase (IN) from a synthetic gene [FASEB J. 14 (2000) 1389]. We have now constructed linear DNA substrates containing the terminal HIV LTR sequences (so called 'mini-HIV') and EGFP as reporter gene to evaluate whether IN can improve the integration of transfected linear DNA. After electroporation of this mini-HIV we observed a 2- to 3-fold increase in EGFP expression in IN expressing cell lines relative to control cells. The increase in EGFP expression was still evident after passaging of the cells. The effect was observed with linear DNA but not with circular DNA, thus excluding an effect on DNA uptake. The increase was the highest in the 293T-INS(D64V) cell line due to an increase in the amount of total mini-HIV DNA and 2-LTR circles as quantified by Q-PCR. Our data suggest that IN over-expressed in our cell lines interacts with the incoming DNA, protects it from nuclease degradation but does not catalyze the integration as such.

Positional Effects of the Central DNA Flap in HIV-1-derived Lentiviral Vectors

During reverse transcription of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), a 90- or 99-nucleotide long DNA flap is formed at the centre of the viral cDNA. The presence of a central DNA flap in lentiviral vectors improves transduction efficiency significantly. We analysed the stimulation of lentiviral vector transduction by a DNA flap present at ectopic positions in the viral cDNA. A HIV-1 vector containing the cPPT/CTS fragment immediately downstream of the 5'-LTR performed as well as the wild-type cPPT-vector. Cloning of the cPPT/CTS fragment in front of the 3'-LTR resulted as well in a vector with higher transduction efficiency than a vector without central flap. These results demonstrate that the position of the DNA flap is not essential for its function in the context of HIV-1-derived lentiviral vectors. This may have consequences for vector design and our understanding of the functioning of the HIV-1 DNA flap.

The Interaction of LEDGF/p75 with Integrase is Lentivirus-specific and Promotes DNA Binding

We have previously shown that the p75 isoform of the transcriptional co-activator lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF) interacts tightly with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 integrase (IN) and is essential for nuclear targeting of this protein in human cells (Cherepanov, P., Maertens, G., Proost, P., Devreese, B., Van Beeumen, J., Engelborghs, Y., De Clercq, E., and Debyser, Z. (2003) J. Biol. Chem. 278, 372-381; Maertens, G., Cherepanov, P., Pluymers, W., Busschots, K., De Clercq, E., Debyser, Z., and Engelborghs, Y. (2003) J. Biol. Chem. 278, 33528-33539). Here the interaction between recombinant LEDGF/p75 and HIV-1 IN was examined in a pull-down binding test. LEDGF/p75 was shown to increase the solubility of HIV-1 IN. Next, fluorescent correlation spectroscopy was used to measure the interaction of LEDGF/p75 or the complex of HIV-1 IN and LEDGF/p75 with a specific double-stranded DNA oligonucleotide. Whereas LEDGF/p75 displayed only a moderate affinity for DNA, it strongly promoted the binding of HIV-1 IN to DNA. This effect was specific for the p75 isoform of LEDGF and was not seen with p52. In the pull-down assay LEDGF/p75 interacted with HIV-1, HIV-2, and feline immunodeficiency virus IN, but not with the IN of human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 2, Moloney murine leukemia virus, or Rous sarcoma virus. These results strongly suggest that the interaction of LEDGF/p75 with IN is specific to lentiviridae. LEDGF/p75 stimulated the binding of HIV-1 and HIV-2 IN, but not Moloney murine leukemia virus or Rous sarcoma virus IN, to an aspecific DNA. These results provide supporting evidence for our hypothesis that LEDGF/p75 plays a role in the tethering of lentiviral IN to the chromosomal DNA.

Measuring Protein-protein Interactions Inside Living Cells Using Single Color Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy. Application to Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Integrase and LEDGF/p75

Recently we described the interaction of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)1 integrase (IN) with a cellular protein, lens epithelium-derived growth factor/transcription co-activator p75 (LEDGF/p75). We now present the study of the diffusion behavior of the three independent domains of IN and LEDGF/p75 using fluorescence correlation microscopy (FCM). We show that diffusion in the cell of the different enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) fusion proteins is described by two components with different fractions and that the average parameters in the nucleus are comparable with those in the cytoplasm. In addition, we demonstrate that specific interaction between EGFP-fused HIV-1 IN and LEDGF/p75 results in a shift in diffusion coefficient (D). The opposite shift was observed in an IN-deletion mutant that does not exhibit LEDGF/p75 binding or in a LEDGF/p75 knock-down experiment using siRNA. We thus demonstrate that protein-protein interactions can be studied in living cells, using single-color FCM (scFCM).

Integrase Mutants Defective for Interaction with LEDGF/p75 Are Impaired in Chromosome Tethering and HIV-1 Replication

The insertion of a DNA copy of its RNA genome into a chromosome of the host cell is mediated by the viral integrase with the help of mostly uncharacterized cellular cofactors. We have recently described that the transcriptional co-activator LEDGF/p75 strongly interacts with HIV-1 integrase. Here we show that interaction of HIV-1 integrase with LEDGF/p75 is important for viral replication. Using multiple approaches including two-hybrid interaction studies, random and directed mutagenesis, we could demonstrate that HIV-1 virus harboring a single mutation that disrupts integrase-LEDGF/p75 interaction, resulted in defective HIV-1 replication. Furthermore, we found that LEDGF/p75 tethers HIV-1 integrase to chromosomes and that this interaction may be important for the integration process and the replication of HIV-1.

HIV-1 Integration: an Interplay Between HIV-1 Integrase, Cellular and Viral Proteins

To achieve a productive infection, the reverse transcribed cDNA of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) has to be inserted in the host cell genome. The main protein required to accomplish this reaction is the virally encoded integrase. In vitro, the recombinant integrase is capable of catalyzing the two subsequent reactions of the integration process, namely the 3' processing followed by the strand transfer, without other viral and/or cellular proteins. However, a number of studies indicate that the in vivo integration process also involves cellular proteins, assisting the virus to integrate in the cellular genome. These cellular proteins can play a role during different steps of the integration process, including nuclear import, integrase catalysis, integration site selection and DNA gap repair. In this review we summarize the candidate cellular proteins involved in the HIV-1 integration process identified so far and discuss their potential roles during HIV-1 replication.

Hematopoietic Stem Cell-based Gene Therapy Against HIV Infection: Promises and Caveats

Stem cell-based gene therapy of HIV infection aims at inhibiting HIV replication and the progression to AIDS by the introduction of antiviral genes in primitive hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). Ideally, after differentiation into mature blood cells, these antiviral genes should create a host-cell population that is resistant to HIV infection. Although the current gene therapy clinical trials established the safety and provided proof-of-principle for gene therapy of HIV-1 infection, the overall results have been disappointing, and many issues still remain to be resolved before this approach can be efficiently used against HIV infection. Since a significant percentage of the stem cells in the patient have to be transduced to obtain a significant impact on HIV replication, the first prerequisite for successful gene therapy of HIV-1 infection consists of increasing the amount of transduced HSCs. Further improvements in gene transfer and gene therapy strategies will probably lead to future clinical successes. On the other hand, HIV-1 infection is a very complex disease, affecting various organs in addition to the T-cells, with an impact on T-cell homeostasis that is currently not fully understood. Even at low viral loads and before the advent of clinical symptoms, a high turnover of CD4+ cells exists in HIV-infected patients with functional implications for the homeostasis of the thymus, bone marrow and T-cell homeostasis which may hamper the CD34+ HSC approach. Hence, the extent to which these alterations hamper a gene therapy approach, or can be reversed upon HAART, will determine the feasibility of future gene therapy against AIDS.

Upscaling of Lentiviral Vector Production by Tangential Flow Filtration

HIV-1-derived vectors are promising tools for gene transfer into the brain. Application of these vectors for gene therapy or for the creation of animal models for neurodegenerative diseases requires standardization and upscaling of lentiviral vector production methods.

Mutations in Both Env and Gag Genes Are Required for HIV-1 Resistance to the Polysulfonic Dendrimer SPL2923, As Corroborated by Chimeric Virus Technology

A drug-resistant NL4.3/SPL2923 strain has previously been generated by in vitro selection of HIV-1(NL4.3) in the presence of the polysulfonic dendrimer SPL2923 and mutations were reported in its gp120 gene (Witvrouw et al., 2000). Here, we further analysed the (cross) resistance profile of NL4.3/SPL2923. NL4.3/SPL2923 was found to contain additional mutations in gp41 and showed reduced susceptibility to SPL2923, dextran sulfate (DS) and enfuvirtide. To delineate to what extent the mutations in each env gene were accountable for the phenotypic (cross) resistance of NL4.3/SPL2923, the gp120-, gp41- and gp160-sequences derived from this strain were placed into a wild-type background using env chimeric virus technology (CVT). The cross resistance of NL4.3/SPL2923 towards DS was fully reproduced following gp160-recombination, while it was only partially reproduced following gp120- or gp41-recombination. The mutations in gp41 of NL4.3/SPL2923 were sufficient to reproduce the cross resistance to enfuvirtide. Unexpectedly, the reduced sensitivity towards SPL2923 was not fully reproduced after gp160-recombination. The search for mutations in NL4.3/SPL2923 in viral genes other than env revealed several mutations in the gene encoding the HIV p17 matrix protein (MA) and one mutation in the gene encoding the p24 capsid protein (CA). In order to analyse the impact of the gag mutations alone and in combination with the mutations in env on the phenotypic resistance towards SPL2923, we developed a novel p17- and p17/gp160-CVT. Phenotypic analysis of the NL4.3/SPL2923 p17- and p17/gp160-recombined strains indicated that the mutations in both env and gag have to be present to fully reproduce the resistance of NL4.3/SPL2923 towards SPL2923.

Pharmacophore-based Design of HIV-1 Integrase Strand-transfer Inhibitors

Using a training set of diketo-like acid HIV-1 integrase (IN) strand-transfer inhibitors, a 3D pharmacophore model was derived having quantitative predictive ability in terms of activity. The best statistical hypothesis consisted of four features (one hydrophobic aromatic region, two hydrogen-bond acceptors, and one hydrogen-bond donor) with r of 0.96. The resulting pharmacophore model guided the rational design of benzylindoles as new potent IN inhibitors, whose microwave-assisted synthesis and biological evaluation are reported.

Cellular Co-factors of HIV-1 Integration

To achieve productive infection, the reverse transcribed cDNA of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is inserted in the host cell genome. The main protein responsible for this reaction is the viral integrase. However, studies indicate that the virus is assisted by cellular proteins, or co-factors, to achieve integration into the infected cell. The barrier-to-autointegration factor (BAF) might prevent autointegration. Its ability to bridge DNA and the finding that the nuclear lamina-associated polypeptide-2alpha interacts with BAF suggest a role in nuclear structure organization. Integrase interactor 1 was found to directly interact with HIV-1 integrase and to activate its DNA-joining activity, and the high mobility group chromosomal protein A1 might approximate both long terminal repeat (LTR) ends and facilitate integrase binding by unwinding the LTR termini. Furthermore, the lens-epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF; also known as p75) seems to tether HIV-1 integrase to the chromosomes. Although a direct role in integration has only been demonstrated for LEDGF/p75, to date, each validated cellular co-factor for HIV-1 integration could constitute a promising new target for antiviral therapy.

The Aggregation of Alpha-synuclein is Stimulated by FK506 Binding Proteins As Shown by Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy

Aggregation of alpha-synuclein (alpha-SYN) plays a key role in Parkinson's disease (PD). We have used fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) to study alpha-SYN aggregation in vitro and discovered that this process is clearly accelerated by addition of FK506 binding proteins (FKBPs). This effect was observed both with E. coli SlyD FKBP and with human FKBP12 and was counteracted by FK506, a specific inhibitor of FKBP. The alpha-SYN aggregates formed in the presence of FKBP12 showed fibrillar morphology. The rotamase activity of FKBP apparently accelerates the folding and subsequent aggregation of alpha-SYN. Since FK506 and other non-immunosuppressive FKBP inhibitors are known to display neuroregenerative and neuroprotective properties in disease models, the observed inhibition of rotamase activity and alpha-SYN aggregation, may explain their mode of action. Our results open perspectives for the treatment of PD with immunophilin ligands that inhibit a specific member of the FKBP family.

Transient and Stable Knockdown of the Integrase Cofactor LEDGF/p75 Reveals Its Role in the Replication Cycle of Human Immunodeficiency Virus

After identifying the interaction between the transcriptional coactivator lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF/p75) and the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) integrase (IN), we have now investigated the role of LEDGF/p75 during HIV replication. Transient small interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of LEDGF/p75 in HeLaP4 cells resulted in a three- to fivefold inhibition of HIV-1 (strain NL4.3) replication. Quantitative PCR was used to pinpoint the replication block to the integration step. Next, polyclonal and monoclonal HeLaP4-derived cell lines were selected with a stable knockdown of LEDGF/p75 mediated by a lentiviral vector (lentivector) encoding a short hairpin RNA (shRNA) targeting this protein. Cell lines stably transduced with a lentivector encoding an unrelated hairpin or a double-mismatch hairpin served as controls. Again, a two- to fourfold reduction of HIV-1 replication was observed. The extent of LEDGF/p75 knockdown closely correlated with the reduction of HIV-1 replication. After the back-complementation of LEDGF/p75 in the poly- and monoclonal knockdown cell lines using an shRNA-resistant expression plasmid, viral replication was restored to nearly wild-type levels. The Q168A mutation in integrase has been shown to interfere with the interaction with LEDGF/p75 without reducing the enzymatic activity. Transduction by HIV-1-derived lentivectors carrying the Q168A IN mutant was severely hampered, pointing again to a requirement for LEDGF/p75. Altogether, our data validate LEDGF/p75 as an important cellular cofactor for HIV integration and as a potential target for antiviral drug development.

Lentiviral Vectors Mediate Efficient and Stable Gene Transfer in Adult Neural Stem Cells in Vivo

Modulation of adult neurogenesis may offer new therapeutic strategies for various brain disorders. In the adult mammalian brain the subventricular zone (SVZ) of the lateral ventricle is a region of continuous neurogenesis. Lentiviral vectors stably integrate into dividing and nondividing cells, in contrast to retroviral vectors, which integrate only into dividing cells. We compared their potential for gene transfer into both quiescent and slowly dividing stem cells as well as into more rapidly dividing progenitor cells. In contrast to retroviral vectors, stereotactic injection of lentiviral vectors into the SVZ of adult mice resulted in efficient and long-term marker gene expression in cells with characteristics of both immature type B cells and migrating precursor cells. After migration along the rostral migratory stream and differentiation, the number of enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP)-expressing granular and periglomerular interneurons increased over time in the ipsilateral olfactory bulb. Moreover, the number of eGFP-labeled neuronal progenitor cells in the SVZ increased over time. By intraventricular injection of lentiviral vectors we could restrict gene transfer to ependymal cells and type B astroglial-like stem cells. In conclusion, lentiviral vectors surpass retroviral vectors in efficient long-term in vivo marking of subventricular zone stem cells for basic research and therapeutic applications.

Noninvasive Monitoring of Long-term Lentiviral Vector-mediated Gene Expression in Rodent Brain with Bioluminescence Imaging

Gene transfer into the central nervous system is an emerging therapeutic strategy for a range of neurological diseases, including neurodegeneration. This approach would benefit from imaging technologies that could determine the extent, magnitude, and duration of transgene expression. We have used bioluminescence imaging (BLI) to image lentiviral vector-mediated gene transfer into the mouse brain. We constructed human immunodeficiency virus type 1 lentiviral vectors that encode firefly luciferase and transduce cells in culture. After stereotactic injection of these vectors into the brain, we were able to detect luciferase expression in living mice and rats. We characterized the signal in mouse brain in terms of localization, kinetics, resolution, and reproducibility and demonstrated that it correlates with the level of firefly luciferase expression. Although the signal decreased gradually to about 20% of the initial value in the first month, the signal remained constant thereafter for more than 10 months. We demonstrated that the light signal can be used as a reporter by using a bicistronic vector. This is the first study to document noninvasive monitoring of long-term transgene expression in the adult mouse brain and provides the basis for applying BLI in the study of brain disease and gene therapeutic strategies.

Comparison of Lentiviral Vector Titration Methods

Lentiviral vectors are efficient vehicles for stable gene transfer in dividing and non-dividing cells. Several improvements in vector design to increase biosafety and transgene expression, have led to the approval of these vectors for use in clinical studies. Methods are required to analyze the quality of lentiviral vector production, the efficiency of gene transfer and the extent of therapeutic gene expression.

Parkin Protects Against Neurotoxicity in the 6-hydroxydopamine Rat Model for Parkinson's Disease

Loss-of-function mutations in the PARK2 gene are the major cause of early onset familial Parkinson's disease. The gene product, parkin, is an E3 ligase of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway involved in protein degradation. Dopaminergic neuron loss may result from the toxic accumulation of parkin substrates, suggesting a key role for parkin in dopaminergic neuron survival. In this study, we have investigated the neuroprotective capacity of parkin in the 6-OHDA rat model for Parkinson's disease. 6-OHDA induces the generation of reactive oxygen species leading to the degeneration of catecholaminergic neurons, but may also impair proteasome activity. Lentiviral vectors encoding human wild-type parkin or green fluorescent protein were stereotactically injected into the substantia nigra 2 weeks prior to a striatal 6-OHDA lesion. Histological analysis 1 and 3 weeks after lesioning showed a significant preservation of dopaminergic cell bodies and nerve terminals. Moreover, lesioned rats overexpressing parkin displayed a corresponding behavioral improvement as measured by the amphetamine-induced rotation test and the cylinder test. The improved performance in the amphetamine-induced rotation test lasted until 20 weeks after lesioning. Our results demonstrate that parkin acts as a potent neuroprotective agent in vivo against 6-OHDA toxic insults. These data support the therapeutic potential of parkin for the treatment of not only familial but also sporadic Parkinson's disease.

The Central DNA Flap of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 is Important for Viral Replication

Reverse transcription of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 is characterized by the formation of a DNA flap at the center of the viral cDNA in between the central polypurine tract (cPPT) and the central termination sequence (CTS). The importance of the DNA flap for HIV-1 replication has been questioned, whereas its importance for lentiviral vector performance is well accepted. To investigate this controversy, we re-evaluated the importance of the DNA flap for HIV-1 replication. A flap negative HIV-1 virus showed a 10- to 100-fold replication defect in comparison with a WT strain. Further characterization of the DNA flap in the context of lentiviral vectors showed that mutations in the DNA-flap sequence did not affect the transduction efficiency. Finally, introduction of a second cPPT/CTS sequence resulted in the presence of two DNA flaps but no higher transduction efficiency.

Overexpression of the Lens Epithelium-derived Growth Factor/p75 Integrase Binding Domain Inhibits Human Immunodeficiency Virus Replication

We initially identified lens epithelium-derived growth factor/p75 (LEDGF/p75) as a binding partner of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) integrase. To investigate the role of LEDGF/p75 in HIV replication and its potential as a new antiviral target, we stably overexpressed two different fragments containing the integrase binding domain (IBD) of LEDGF/p75 fused to enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP). HIV-1 replication was severely inhibited by overexpression of the eGFP-IBD fusion proteins, while no inhibition was observed in cell lines overexpressing the interaction-deficient D366A mutant. Quantitative PCR pinpointed the block to the integration step, whereas nuclear import was not affected. Competition of the IBD fusion proteins with endogenous LEDGF/p75 for binding to integrase led to a potent defect in HIV-1 replication in both HeLaP4- and MT-4-derived cell lines. A previously described diketo acid-resistant HIV-1 strain remained fully susceptible to inhibition, suggesting that this strategy will also work in patients who harbor strains resistant to the current experimental integrase inhibitors. These data support LEDGF/p75 as an important cofactor for HIV replication and provide proof of concept for the LEDGF/p75-integrase interaction as a novel target for treating HIV-1 infection.

Non-invasive Imaging of Neuropathology in a Rat Model of Alpha-synuclein Overexpression

Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting the dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. Aggregation of alpha-synuclein appears to play a central role in the pathogenesis. Novel animal models for neurodegeneration have been generated by lentiviral vector-mediated locoregional overexpression of disease-associated genes in the adult brain. We have used lentiviral vectors to overexpress a clinical mutant of alpha-synuclein, A30P, in the rat substantia nigra. This overexpression induced time-dependent cytoplasmic and neuritic accumulation of alpha-synuclein and neurodegeneration. A subgroup of the rats developed asymmetric rotational behavior after administration of amphetamine. In addition, these animals displayed reduced dopamine transporter binding visualized by 123I-FP-CIT microSPECT imaging. The behavioral and microSPECT data were validated by histological analysis. There was a strong correlation between the reduction of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra and the reduction of dopamine transporter binding in the striatum. MicroSPECT imaging enables non-invasive imaging of the neurodegeneration allowing longitudinal follow-up in this new animal model for Parkinson's disease and the evaluation of neuroprotective drugs.

Concise Review: Therapeutic Strategies for Parkinson Disease Based on the Modulation of Adult Neurogenesis

Parkinson disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder affecting millions of people worldwide. To date, treatment strategies are mainly symptomatic and aimed at increasing dopamine levels in the degenerating nigrostriatal system. Hope rests upon the development of effective neurorestorative or neuroregenerative therapies based on gene and stem cell therapy or a combination of both. The results of experimental therapies based on transplanting exogenous dopamine-rich fetal cells or glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor overexpression into the brain of Parkinson disease patients encourage future cell- and gene-based strategies. The endogenous neural stem cells of the adult brain provide an alternative and attractive cell source for neuroregeneration. Prior to designing endogenous stem cell therapies, the possible impact of PD on adult neuronal stem cell pools and their neurogenic potential must be investigated. We review the experimental data obtained in animal models or based on analysis of patients' brains prior to describing different treatment strategies. Strategies aimed at enhancing neuronal stem cell proliferation and/or differentiation in the striatum or the substantia nigra will have to be compared in animal models and selected prior to clinical studies.

Identification of the LEDGF/p75 Binding Site in HIV-1 Integrase

Lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF)/p75 is an important cellular co-factor for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) replication. We originally identified LEDGF/p75 as a binding partner of integrase (IN) in human cells. The interaction has been mapped to the integrase-binding domain (IBD) of LEDGF/p75 located in the C-terminal part. We have subsequently shown that IN carrying the Q168A mutation remains enzymatically active but is impaired for interaction with LEDGF/p75. To map the integrase/LEDGF interface in more detail, we have now identified and characterized two regions within the enzyme involved in the interaction with LEDGF/p75. The first region centers around residues W131 and W132 while the second extends from I161 up to E170. For the different IN mutants the interaction with LEDGF/p75 and the enzymatic activities were determined. IN(W131A), IN(I161A), IN(R166A), IN(Q168A) and IN(E170A) are impaired for interaction with LEDGF/p75, but retain 3' processing and strand transfer activities. Due to impaired integration, an HIV-1 strain containing the W131A mutation in IN displays reduced replication capacity, whereas virus carrying IN(Q168A) is replication defective. Comparison of the wild-type IN-LEDGF/p75 co-crystal structure with that of the modelled structure of the IN(Q168A) and IN(W131A) mutant integrases corroborated our experimental data.

Simple Criterion for Selection of Flavonoid Compounds with Anti-HIV Activity

Flavonoid compounds represent an important natural source of antiretrovirals for AIDS therapy due to their significant anti-HIV-1 activity and low toxicity. Here we propose a simple theoretical criterion to discriminate active from inactive flavonoids that is suitable for rapid in silico screening of flavonoid libraries, and selection and optimization of lead compounds with anti-HIV-1 activity.

Synthesis and Preliminary Evaluation of 18F- or 11C-labeled Bicyclic Nucleoside Analogues As Potential Probes for Imaging Varicella-zoster Virus Thymidine Kinase Gene Expression Using Positron Emission Tomography

Two radiolabeled bicyclic nucleoside analogues (BCNAs) were synthesized, namely 3-(2'-deoxy-beta-d-ribofuranosyl)-6-(3-[18F]fluoroethoxyphenyl)-2,3-dihydrofuro[2,3-d]pyrimidin-2-one ([18F]-2) and 3-(2'-deoxy-beta-d-ribofuranosyl)-6-(3-[11C]methoxyphenyl)-2,3-dihydrofuro[2,3-d]pyrimidin-2-one ([11C]-3), and evaluated as PET reporter probes for varicella-zoster virus thymidine kinase (VZV-tk) gene expression imaging in brain. [18F]-2 and [11C]-3 were synthesized starting from phenol precursor 1. The phenol precursor 1 was converted to stable as well as to radiolabeled compounds 2 and 3 using (19/18)FCH(2)CH(2)Br or (12/11)CH(3)I as alkylating agent. In vitro evaluation of [18F]-2 and [11C]-3 in 293T cells showed a 4.5 and 53-fold higher uptake, respectively, into VZV-tk gene-transduced cells compared to control cells. However, biodistribution studies in mice demonstrated low uptake of these tracers in the brain. RP-HPLC analysis of plasma and urine samples of mice injected with [11C]-3 revealed that this tracer is very stable in vivo. These data warrant further evaluation of these tracers as noninvasive imaging agents for VZV infection and VZV-tk reporter gene expression in vivo.

Comparative Analysis of Adeno-associated Viral Vector Serotypes 1, 2, 5, 7, and 8 in Mouse Brain

Recombinant adeno-associated virus serotype 2 (rAAV2) vectors have been shown to deliver genes effectively to neurons in the brain, retina, and spinal cord. The characterization of new AAV serotypes revealed different patterns of transduction in a diverse array of tissues (Gao, G., Vandenberghe, L.H., and Wilson, J.M. [2005]. Curr. Gene Ther. 5, 285-297). Here, we extensively compare the neural tropism of human-derived rAAVs (types 2/1, 2, and 2/5) with nonhuman primate-derived rAAVs (types 2/7 and 2/8) in adult mouse brain. Mice were injected with rAAV type 2/1, 2, 2/5, 2/7, or 2/8 via the caudate-putamen and substantia nigra. Intrahippocampal injections were also performed for rAAV2/7 and rAAV2/8. In all regions injected, the vectors transduced neurons almost exclusively. Retrograde transduction of all rAAV pseudotypes was also observed in particular CNS areas. At high titers, all rAAV pseudotypes transduced comparable brain volumes in all targeted regions except for rAAV2, which transduced much smaller brain volumes. A dose-range comparison of intrastriatally injected rAAV types 2/5, 2/7, and 2/8 highlighted that the transduction efficiency, as determined by transduced volume and biophotonic imaging of green fluorescent protein expression intensity, was significantly higher for rAAV2/5 and rAAV2/7 compared with rAAV2/8 at low titers, whereas all three serotypes performed equally well at higher doses. These results demonstrate the use and efficiency of both human- and nonhuman primate-derived rAAV vectors for disease modeling and their potential for gene therapy.

Virus Evolution Reveals an Exclusive Role for LEDGF/p75 in Chromosomal Tethering of HIV

Retroviruses by definition insert their viral genome into the host cell chromosome. Although the key player of retroviral integration is viral integrase, a role for cellular cofactors has been proposed. Lentiviral integrases use the cellular protein LEDGF/p75 to tether the preintegration complex to the chromosome, although the existence of alternative host proteins substituting for the function of LEDGF/p75 in integration has been proposed. Truncation mutants of LEDGF/p75 lacking the chromosome attachment site strongly inhibit HIV replication by competition for the interaction with integrase. In an attempt to select HIV strains that can overcome the inhibition, we now have used T-cell lines that stably express a C-terminal fragment of LEDGF/p75. Despite resistance development, the affinity of integrase for LEDGF/p75 is reduced and replication kinetics in human primary T cells is impaired. Detection of the integrase mutations A128T and E170G at key positions in the LEDGF/p75-integrase interface provides in vivo evidence for previously reported crystallographic data. Moreover, the complementary inhibition by LEDGF/p75 knockdown and mutagenesis at the integrase-LEDGF/p75 interface points to the incapability of HIV to circumvent LEDGF/p75 function during proviral integration. Altogether, the data provide a striking example of the power of viral molecular evolution. The results underline the importance of the LEDGF/p75 HIV-1 interplay as target for innovative antiviral therapy. Moreover, the role of LEDGF/p75 in targeting integration will stimulate research on strategies to direct gene therapy vectors into safe landing sites.

Fetal Gene Transfer with Lentiviral Vectors: Long-term in Vivo Follow-up Evaluation in a Rat Model

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the long-term expression of a transgene and subsequent immune response after the injection of lentiviral vectors in a fetal rats.

Synthesis and Biological Evaluation of an 123I-labeled Bicyclic Nucleoside Analogue (BCNA) As Potential SPECT Tracer for VZV-tk Reporter Gene Imaging

An iodine-123 labeled bicyclic nucleoside analogue ([(123)I]-4) has been synthesized and evaluated as a potential single photon emission tomography (SPECT) reporter probe for the non-invasive imaging of expression of the varicella zoster virus thymidine kinase (VZV-tk) reporter gene. In vitro enzymatic assays revealed that the non-radioactive mono-iodo derivative 4 has good affinity for VZV-TK (IC(50): 4.2 microM). Biodistribution of [(123)I]-4 was examined in normal mice. Evaluation of [(123)I]-4 in HEK-293T cells showed 1.74-fold higher accumulation in VZV-TK-expressing cells compared to control cells.

Lentiviral Nuclear Import: a Complex Interplay Between Virus and Host

Although the capacity to infect non-dividing cells is a hallmark of lentiviruses, nuclear import is still barely understood. More than 100 research papers have been dedicated to this topic during the last 15 years, yet, more questions have been raised than answers. The signal-facilitating translocation of the viral preintegration complex (PIC) through the nuclear pore complex (NPC) remains unknown. It is clear, however, that nuclear import is the result of a complex interplay between viral and cellular components. In this review, we discuss the current knowledge on nuclear import. We focus on the controversies and pitfalls and discuss the interplay between virus and host.

New 4-[(1-benzyl-1H-indol-3-yl)carbonyl]-3-hydroxyfuran-2(5H)-ones, Beta-diketo Acid Analogs As HIV-1 Integrase Inhibitors

In addition to our recent report on a series of rationally designed benzylindolyldiketo acids acting as potent HIV-1 integrase strand transfer inhibitors, we disclose the results obtained with novel compounds chemically modified on the diketo acid moiety in order to investigate its influence on the biological activity and cytotoxicity. The activity of designed and synthesized 4-[(1-benzyl-1H-indol-3-yl)carbonyl]-3-hydroxyfuran-2(5H)-one derivatives lies in the micromolar range with regard to HIV IN enzymatic activity. The microwave-assisted synthesis was employed in some steps of the chemical procedures.

Novel Virtual Screening Protocol Based on the Combined Use of Molecular Modeling and Electron-ion Interaction Potential Techniques to Design HIV-1 Integrase Inhibitors

HIV-1 integrase (IN) is an essential enzyme for viral replication and represents an intriguing target for the development of new drugs. Although a large number of compounds have been reported to inhibit IN in biochemical assays, no drug active against this enzyme has been approved by the FDA so far. In this study, we report, for the first time, the use of the electron-ion interaction potential (EIIP) technique in combination with molecular modeling approaches for the identification of new IN inhibitors. An innovative virtual screening approach, based on the determination of both short- and long-range interactions between interacting molecules, was employed with the aim of identifying molecules able to inhibit the binding of IN to viral DNA. Moreover, results from a database screening on the commercial Asinex Gold Collection led to the selection of several compounds. One of them showed a significant inhibitory potency toward IN in the overall integration assay. Biological investigations also showed, in agreement with modeling studies, that these compounds prevent recognition of DNA by IN in a fluorescence fluctuation assay, probably by interacting with the DNA binding domain of IN.

Differential Interaction of HIV-1 Integrase and JPO2 with the C Terminus of LEDGF/p75

The transcriptional co-activator lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF) has been shown to protect cells against environmental stress. The protein has been implicated in auto-immunity and cancer, and is present in cells as the p52 or p75 splice variant. Recently, LEDGF/p75, but not p52, was identified as the prominent interaction partner of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) integrase. This interaction of HIV-1 integrase with the C-terminal integrase-binding domain of LEDGF/p75 is crucial for HIV-1 replication. To gain insight into the cell biology of LEDGF/p75, we were interested in identifying cellular binding partners of its C-terminal domain. By yeast-two-hybrid screening with a CEMC7 cDNA-library, we were able to identify JPO2 as a binding partner of the C-terminal part of LEDGF/p75. The specific interaction between JPO2 and LEDGF/p75 was verified by pull-down, AlphaScreen, and co-immunoprecipitation. Competition assays using recombinant proteins show a mutually exclusive binding of either JPO2 or HIV-1 integrase to LEDGF/p75. However, differing mechanisms of binding were suggested by continuing interaction of JPO2 with some LEDGF/p75 mutants (I365A, D366A, F406A) that are totally defective for interaction with HIV-1 integrase. This finding is of significance for the development of specific inhibitors targeting only the interaction between LEDGF/p75 and HIV-1 integrase, without disturbing interaction with other cellular factors. Over-expression of JPO2 resulted in a modest but reproducible inhibition of HIV-1 replication, consistent with competition between integrase and JPO2 for binding to LEDGF/p75. Furthermore, JPO2 over-expression activated transcription from the HIV-1 LTR.

Toward Novel HIV-1 Integrase Binding Inhibitors: Molecular Modeling, Synthesis, and Biological Studies

The identification of a novel hit compound as integrase binding inhibitor has been accomplished by means of virtual screening techniques. A small family of structurally related molecules has been synthesized and biologically evaluated with one of the compounds showing an IC(50)=12 microM.

Local Origin and Activity-dependent Generation of Nestin-expressing Protoplasmic Astrocytes in CA1

Since reports that precursor cells in the adult subventricular zone (SVZ) contribute to regenerative neuro- and gliogenesis in CA1, we wondered whether a similar route of migration might also exist under physiological conditions. Permanent labeling of SVZ precursor cells with a lentiviral vector for green fluorescent protein did not reveal any migration from the SVZ into CA1 in the intact murine brain. However, in a nestin-GFP reporter mouse we found proliferating cells within the corpus callosum/alveus region expressing nestin and glial fibrillary acidic protein similar to precursor cells in the neighboring neurogenic region of the adult dentate gyrus. Within 3 weeks of BrdU administration, BrdU-positive nestin-GFP-expressing protoplasmic astrocytes emerged in CA1. Similar to precursor cells isolated from the dentate gyrus and the SVZ, nestin-GFP-expressing cells from corpus callosum/alveus were self-renewing and multipotent in vitro, whereas cells isolated from CA1 were not. Nestin-GFP-expressing cells in CA1 differentiated into postmitotic astrocytes characterized by S100beta expression. No new neurons were found in CA1. The number of nestin-GFP-expressing astrocytes in CA1 was increased by environmental enrichment. We conclude that astrogenesis in CA1 is influenced by environmental conditions. However, SVZ precursor cells do not contribute to physiological cellular plasticity in CA1.

Discovery of Novel Non-cytotoxic Salicylhydrazide Containing HIV-1 Integrase Inhibitors

The previously discovered salicylhydrazide class of compounds displayed potent HIV-1 integrase (IN) inhibitory activity. The development of this class of compounds as antiretroviral agents was halted due to cytotoxicity in the nanomolar to sub-micromolar range. We identified a novel class of non-cytotoxic hydrazide IN inhibitors utilizing the minimally required salicylhydrazide substructure as a template in a small-molecule database search. The novel hydrazides displayed low micromolar IN inhibitory activity and are several hundred-fold less cytotoxic than previously disclosed salicylhydrazide IN inhibitors.

A P-[18F]fluoroethoxyphenyl Bicyclic Nucleoside Analogue As a Potential Positron Emission Tomography Imaging Agent for Varicella-zoster Virus Thymidine Kinase Gene Expression

We recently reported a new positron emission tomography (PET) reporter gene, namely, varicella-zoster virus thymidine kinase (VZV-tk) in combination, with carbon-11 or fluorine-18 labeled m-alkoxyphenyl bicyclic nucleoside analogues (BCNAs) as PET reporter probes. We now report the synthesis and evaluation of p-alkoxyphenyl-BCNA tracers ([11C]-4 and [18F]-5), which are found to be superior to the m-alkoxyphenyl-BCNA tracers. In particular, the fluorine-18 labeled tracer ([18F]-5, IC50 of 5 is 4.2 microM) shows a higher accumulation in VZV-tk expressing cells than the previously reported m-methoxyphenyl BCNA. [11C]-4 and [18F]-5 were synthesized by heating the phenol precursor 3 with 11CH 3I and 18FCH 2CH 2Br, respectively, as alkylating agents. In vitro evaluation of [11C]-4 and [18F]-5 in 293T cells showed about 14- and 54-fold higher uptake, respectively, into VZV-tk gene-transduced cells compared to control cells. LC-MS analysis confirmed the formation of monophosphate derivative of 5 upon catalysis by VZV TK. In vivo studies of this new reporter gene/probe system are in progress.

Efficient Purification and Metabolite Analysis of Radiotracers Using High-performance Liquid Chromatography and On-line Solid-phase Extraction

This study describes an efficient method using on-line solid-phase extraction (SPE) (Oasis HLB) for preparative HPLC purification of short-lived radiotracers for positron emission tomography (PET) and for HPLC analysis of radiotracers and their metabolites in cell homogenates, plasma and urine samples. The radiochemical purity of tracers (fluorine-18 labeled) purified using this method (Oasis column) was >99% compared to 90% when no Oasis column was used. Radiometabolites of several fluorine-18 and carbon-11-labeled tracers and one technetium-99m tracer were quantified in cell homogenates, plasma and urine samples. Samples were analyzed using Oasis column and analytical HPLC system without prior precipitation of proteins or removal of other biological matrices. The metabolites observed for the evaluated tracers were all polar relative to the unchanged tracer. The extraction repeatability was found to be good (RSD 2.2%) and recoveries of Oasis column/HPLC-injected radioactivity (plasma) were found to be high (mean recovery >91%). The same Oasis column was used for several times without back pressure build-up or decrease of the HPLC separation characteristics.

Synthesis and Evaluation of 18F- and 11C-labeled Phenyl-galactopyranosides As Potential Probes for in Vivo Visualization of LacZ Gene Expression Using Positron Emission Tomography

3-Hydroxy-2-nitrophenyl 2,3,4,6-tetra-O-acetyl-beta-D-galactopyranoside, a derivative of the chromogenic beta-galactosidase (beta-gal) substrate o-nitrophenyl beta-D-galactopyranoside (ONPG) was synthesized using a Koenigs-Knorr glycosylation reaction. It was alkylated with 2-[(18)F]fluoroethyl triflate or [(11)C]methyl triflate, followed by deacetylation of the sugar hydroxyl groups to obtain radiolabeled 3-(2'-[(18)F]fluoroethoxy)-2-nitrophenyl beta-D-galactopyranoside ([(18)F]-2c) and 3-[(11)C]methoxy-2-nitrophenyl beta- d-galactopyranoside ([(11)C]-3c), which were evaluated as potential reporter probes for in vivo visualization of LacZ gene expression with positron emission tomography (PET). In vitro, [(18)F]- 2c and [(11)C]-3c were good substrates of beta-gal and showed, respectively, a 7.5- and 2.5-fold higher uptake into beta-gal expressing cells (LacZ cells) compared to control cells. However, reversed-phase HPLC analysis of the LacZ cell lysate and supernatant showed that labeled 3-(2'-[(18)F]fluoroethoxy)-2-nitrophenol, the hydrolysis product formed by beta-gal-mediated cleavage of [(18)F]-2c, substantially leaked out of the cells, which would lead to loss of PET signal. In a microPET study of [(18)F]-2c in a mouse with a beta-gal expressing tumor, high retention was observed in liver and kidneys, but only negligible accumulation was seen in the tumor. As a general conclusion, it can be stated that the synthesized PET tracers [ (18)F]-2c and [(11)C]-3c are not suitable for use as LacZ reporter probes. Further structural modifications to improve the diffusion over the tumor cell membrane and to increase retention in beta-gal expressing cells may lead to more favorable in vivo imaging probes.

Diffusion of Myelin Oligodendrocyte Glycoprotein in Living OLN-93 Cells Investigated by Raster-scanning Image Correlation Spectroscopy (RICS)

Many membrane proteins and lipids are partially confined in substructures ranging from tens of nanometers to micrometers in size. Evidence for heterogeneities in the membrane of oligodendrocytes, i.e. the myelin-producing cells of the central nervous system, is almost exclusively based on detergent methods. However, as application of detergents can alter the membrane phase behaviour, it is important to investigate membrane heterogeneities in living cells. Here, we report on the first investigations of the diffusion behavior of the myelin-specific protein MOG (myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein) in OLN-93 as studied by the recently developed RICS (raster-scanning image correlation spectroscopy) technique. We implemented RICS on a standard confocal laser-scanning microscope with one-photon excitation and analog detection. Measurements on FITC-dextran were used to evaluate the performance of the system and the data analysis procedure.

The Total Synthesis of Fukiic Acid, an HIV-1 Integrase Inhibitor

A successful synthesis of fukiic acid is described in 7% overall yield (6 steps from veratraldehyde). rac-Fukiic acid was found to be a potent inhibitor of HIV-1 integrase but did not reveal any antiviral activity in the MT-4 cells assay.

Quinolone 3-carboxylic Acid Pharmacophore: Design of Second Generation HIV-1 Integrase Inhibitors

Two decades of intensive research efforts have led to the discovery of a large number of HIV-1 integrase (IN) inhibitors. Recently, the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) approved MK-0518, or raltegravir ( 1), as the first IN inhibitor for HIV/AIDS treatment. Growing clinical evidence also demonstrates that the emergence of HIV-1 virus strains bearing IN amino acid substitutions that confer resistance to IN inhibitors is inevitable. The discovery of second generation inhibitors with potency against viral strains bearing drug resistant IN substitutions is necessary for ongoing effective treatment of viral infections. We generated common feature pharmacophore hypotheses using a training set of quinolone 3-carboxylic acid IN inhibitors, including the clinical candidate GS-9137 ( 2). A database search of small molecules using the quinolone 3-carboxylic acid pharmacophore model, followed by in vitro evaluation of selected hits in an assay specific to IN, resulted in the discovery of potential leads with diverse structural scaffolds useful for the design of second generation IN inhibitors.

Inhibitory Profile of a LEDGF/p75 Peptide Against HIV-1 Integrase: Insight into Integrase-DNA Complex Formation and Catalysis

A lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF)/p75 peptide was evaluated for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 integrase (IN) inhibitory activity. The LEDGF/p75 peptide modestly inhibited IN catalysis and was dependent on IN-DNA assembly. The peptide was also effective at disrupting LEDGF/p75-IN complex formation. We next investigated the activity of the LEDGF/p75 peptide on IN mutant proteins that are unable to catalyze the DNA strand transfer reaction. The LEDGF/p75 peptide displayed an increased potency on these IN proteins, from 5-fold to greater than 10-fold, indicating the IN multimeric state greatly influences the peptide inhibitory effects. These results shed light on IN-DNA multimeric formation, and how this process influences the LEDGF/p75-IN interaction.

FK506 Binding Protein 12 Differentially Accelerates Fibril Formation of Wild Type Alpha-synuclein and Its Clinical Mutants A30P or A53T

Aggregation of alpha-synuclein (alpha-SYN) plays a key role in Parkinson's disease. We have previously shown that aggregation of alpha-SYN in vitro is accelerated by addition of FK506 binding proteins (FKBP) and that this effect can be counteracted by FK506, a specific inhibitor of these enzymes. In this paper, we investigated in detail the effect of FKBP12 on early aggregation and on fibril formation of wild-type, A53T and A30P alpha-SYN. FKBP12 has a much smaller effect on the fibril formation of these two clinical mutants alpha-SYN. Using an inactive enzyme, we were able to discriminate between catalytic and non-catalytic effects that differentially influence the two processes. A model explaining non-linear concentration dependencies is proposed.

Reaction of Rosmarinic Acid with Nitrite Ions in Acidic Conditions: Discovery of Nitro- and Dinitrorosmarinic Acids As New Anti-HIV-1 Agents

Rosmarinic acid was reacted with nitrite ions under acidic conditions to give 6'-nitro- and 6',6''-dinitrorosmarinic acids according to the reaction time. Both compounds were active as HIV-1 integrase inhibitors at the submicromolar level. They also inhibited the viral replication in MT-4 cells with modest and similar selectivity indexes. The nitration of rosmarinic acid strongly improves the anti-integrase inhibition and the antiviral activity without increasing the cellular toxicity.

Mutations in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Integrase Confer Resistance to the Naphthyridine L-870,810 and Cross-resistance to the Clinical Trial Drug GS-9137

To gain further insight into the understanding of the antiviral resistance patterns and mechanisms of the integrase strand transfer inhibitor L-870,810, the prototypical naphthyridine analogue, we passaged the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 strain HIV-1(III(B)) in cell culture in the presence of increasing concentrations of L-870,810 (III(B)/L-870,810). The mutations L74M, E92Q, and S230N were successively selected in the integrase. The L74M and E92Q mutations have both been associated in the past with resistance against the diketo acid (DKA) analogues L-708,906 and S-1360 and the clinical trial drugs MK-0518 and GS-9137. After 20, 40, and 60 passages in the presence of L-870,810, III(B)/L-870,810 displayed 22-, 34-, and 110-fold reduced susceptibility to L-870,810, respectively. Phenotypic cross-resistance against the DKA analogue CHI-1043 and MK-0518 was modest but that against GS-9137 was pronounced. Recombination of the mutant integrase genes into the wild-type background reproduced the resistance profile of the resistant III(B)/L-870,810 strains. In addition, resistance against L-870,810 was accompanied by reduced viral replication kinetics and reduced enzymatic activity of integrase. In conclusion, the accumulation of L74M, E92Q, and S230N mutations in the integrase causes resistance to the naphthyridine L-870,810 and cross-resistance to GS-9137. These data may have implications for cross-resistance of different integrase inhibitors in the clinic.

A Refined Pharmacophore Model for HIV-1 Integrase Inhibitors: Optimization of Potency in the 1H-benzylindole Series

We report herein the development of a new three-dimensional pharmacophore model for HIV-1 integrase inhibitors which led to the discovery of some 4-[1-(4-fluorobenzyl)-1H-indol-3-yl]-2-hydroxy-4-oxobut-2-enoic acids that are able to specifically inhibit the strand transfer step of integration at nanomolar concentration. The synthesis of the new designed molecules is also described.

Four-tiered Pi Interaction at the Dimeric Interface of HIV-1 Integrase Critical for DNA Integration and Viral Infectivity

HIV-1 integrase (IN) is an essential enzyme for viral infection. Here, we report an extensive pi electron orbital interaction between four amino acids, W132, M178, F181 and F185, located at the dimeric interface of IN that is critical for the strand transfer activity alone. Catalysis of nine different mutant IN proteins at these positions were evaluated. Whereas the 3'-processing activity is predominantly strong, the strand transfer activity of each enzyme was completely dependent on an intact pi electron orbital interaction at the dimeric interface. Four representative IN mutants were constructed in the context of the infectious NL4.3 HIV-1 viral clone. Whereas viruses with an intact pi electron orbital interaction at the IN dimeric interface replicated comparable to wild type, viruses containing an abolished pi interaction were non-infectious. Q-PCR analysis of viral DNA forms during viral replication revealed pleiotropic effects of most mutations. We hypothesize that the pi interaction is a critical contact point for the assembly of functional IN multimeric complexes, and that IN multimerization is required for a functional pre-integration complex. The rational design of small molecule inhibitors targeting the disruption of this pi-pi interaction should lead to powerful anti-retroviral drugs.

Preclinical Evaluation of 1H-benzylindole Derivatives As Novel Human Immunodeficiency Virus Integrase Strand Transfer Inhibitors

We have identified 1H-benzylindole analogues as a novel series of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) integrase inhibitors with antiretroviral activities against different strains of HIV type 1 (HIV-1), HIV-2, and simian immunodeficiency virus strain MAC(251) [SIV(MAC(251))]. Molecular modeling and structure-activity relationship-based optimization resulted in the identification of CHI/1043 as the most potent congener. CHI/1043 inhibited the replication of HIV-1(III(B)) in MT-4 cells at a 50% effective concentration (EC(50)) of 0.60 microM, 70-fold below its cytotoxic concentration. Equal activities against HIV-1(NL4.3), HIV-2(ROD), HIV-2(EHO), and SIV(MAC(251)) were observed. CHI/1043 was equally active against virus strains resistant against inhibitors of reverse transcriptase or protease. Replication of both X4 and R5 strains in peripheral blood mononuclear cells was sensitive to the inhibitory effect of CHI/1043 (EC(50), 0.30 to 0.38 microM). CHI/1043 inhibited integrase strand transfer activity in oligonucleotide-based enzymatic assays at low micromolar concentrations. Time-of-addition experiments confirmed CHI/1043 to interfere with the viral replication cycle at the time of retroviral integration. Quantitative Alu PCR corroborated that the anti-HIV activity is based upon the inhibition of proviral DNA integration. An HIV-1 strain selected for 70 passages in the presence of CHI/1043 was evaluated genotypically and phenotypically. The mutations T66I and Q146K were present in integrase. Cross-resistance to other integrase strand transfer inhibitors, such as L-708,906, the naphthyridine analogue L-870,810, and the clinical drugs GS/9137 and MK-0518, was observed. In adsorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and toxicity studies, antiviral activity was strongly reduced by protein binding, and metabolization in human liver microsomes was observed. Transport studies with Caco cells suggest a low oral bioavailability.

Noninvasive and Quantitative Monitoring of Adult Neuronal Stem Cell Migration in Mouse Brain Using Bioluminescence Imaging

It is now generally accepted that continuous neurogenesis occurs in the adult mammalian brain, including that of humans. Modulation of adult neurogenesis can provide therapeutic benefits for various brain disorders, including stroke and Parkinson's disease. The subventricular zone-olfactory bulb pathway is one of the preferred model systems by which to study neural stem cell proliferation, migration, and differentiation in adult rodent brain. Research on adult neurogenesis would greatly benefit from reliable methods for long-term noninvasive in vivo monitoring. We have used lentiviral vectors encoding firefly luciferase to stably mark endogenous neural stem cells in the mouse subventricular zone. We show that bioluminescence imaging (BLI) allows quantitative follow-up of the migration of adult neural stem cells into the olfactory bulb in time. Moreover, we propose a model to fit the kinetic data that allows estimation of migration and survival times of the neural stem cells using in vivo BLI. Long-term expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the subventricular zone attenuated neurogenesis, as detected by histology and BLI. In vivo monitoring of the impact of drugs or genes on adult neurogenesis is now within reach.

Investigations on the 4-quinolone-3-carboxylic Acid Motif. 1. Synthesis and Structure-activity Relationship of a Class of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Integrase Inhibitors

A set of 4-quinolone-3-carboxylic acids bearing different substituents on the condensed benzene ring was designed and synthesized as potential HIV-1 integrase inhibitors structurally related to elvitegravir. Some of the new compounds proved to be able to inhibit the strand transfer step of the virus integration process in the micromolar range. Docking studies and quantum mechanics calculations were used to rationalize these data.

Synthesis and Antiviral Properties of Some Polyphenols Related to Salvia Genus

An efficient synthesis of the acid part of salvianolic acid E 2 is described. Compound 2 was obtained from vanillin in 10 steps and 21% overall yield. During the synthesis of 2 an unexpected 5-oxo-4b,9b-dihydroindano[1,2-b]benzofuran rac-12 was isolated. Both compounds together with the acid part of salvianolic acid D were active as HIV-1 integrase inhibitors at the submicromolar level. But they did not inhibit the replication of the virus on MT-4 cells.

Alternative Splicing and Caspase-mediated Cleavage Generate Antagonistic Variants of the Stress Oncoprotein LEDGF/p75

There is increasing evidence that an augmented state of cellular oxidative stress modulates the expression of stress genes implicated in diseases associated with health disparities such as certain cancers and diabetes. Lens epithelium-derived growth factor p75 (LEDGF/p75), also known as DFS70 autoantigen, is emerging as a survival oncoprotein that promotes resistance to oxidative stress-induced cell death and chemotherapy. We previously showed that LEDGF/p75 is targeted by autoantibodies in prostate cancer patients and is overexpressed in prostate tumors, and that its stress survival activity is abrogated during apoptosis. LEDGF/p75 has a COOH-terminally truncated splice variant, p52, whose role in stress survival and apoptosis has not been thoroughly investigated. We observed unbalanced expression of these proteins in a panel of tumor cell lines, with LEDGF/p75 generally expressed at higher levels. During apoptosis, caspase-3 cleaved p52 to generate a p38 fragment that lacked the NH(2)-terminal PWWP domain and failed to transactivate the Hsp27 promoter in reporter assays. However, p38 retained chromatin association properties and repressed the transactivation potential of LEDGF/p75. Overexpression of p52 or its variants with truncated PWWP domains in several tumor cell lines induced apoptosis, an activity that was linked to the presence of an intron-derived COOH-terminal sequence. These results implicate the PWWP domain of p52 in transcription function but not in chromatin association and proapoptotic activities. Consistent with their unbalanced expression in tumor cells, LEDGF/p75 and p52 seem to play antagonistic roles in the cellular stress response and could serve as targets for novel antitumor therapies.

Transportin-SR2 Imports HIV into the Nucleus

The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and other lentiviruses have the capacity to infect nondividing cells like macrophages. This requires import of the preintegration complex (PIC) through the nuclear pore. Although many cellular and viral determinants have been proposed, the mechanism leading to nuclear import is not yet understood.

Novel Targets for HIV Therapy

There are currently 25 drugs belonging to 6 different inhibitor classes approved for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. However, new anti-HIV agents are still needed to confront the emergence of drug resistance and various adverse effects associated with long-term use of antiretroviral therapy. The 21st International Conference on Antiviral Research, held in April 2008 in Montreal, Canada, therefore featured a special session focused on novel targets for HIV therapy. The session included presentations by world-renowned experts in HIV virology and covered a diverse array of potential targets for the development of new classes of HIV therapies. This review contains concise summaries of discussed topics that included Vif-APOBEC3G, LEDGF/p75, TRIM 5alpha, virus assembly and maturation, and Vpu. The described viral and host factors represent some of the most noted examples of recent scientific breakthroughs that are opening unexplored avenues to novel anti-HIV target discovery and validation, and should feed the antiretroviral drug development pipeline in the near future.

Design, Synthesis, and Biological Evaluation of a Series of 2-hydroxyisoquinoline-1,3(2H,4H)-diones As Dual Inhibitors of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Integrase and the Reverse Transcriptase RNase H Domain

We report herein the synthesis of a series of 19 2-hydroxyisoquinoline-1,3(2H,4H)-dione derivatives variously substituted at position 7 aimed at inhibiting selectively two-metal ion catalytic active sites. The compounds were tested against HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) polymerase, HIV-1 RT ribonuclease H (RNase H), and HIV-1 integrase (IN). Most compounds displayed poor inhibition of RT polymerase even at 50 microM. The majority of the synthesized compounds inhibited RNase H and IN at micromolar concentrations, and some of them were weakly selective for IN. Surprisingly, two new hits were discovered, which displayed a high selectivity for IN with submicromolar IC50 values. These enzymatic inhibitory properties may be related to the metal binding abilities of the compounds. Physicochemical studies were consistent with a 1/1 stoichiometry of the magnesium complexes in solution, and the metal complexation was strictly dependent on the enolization abilities of the compounds. Unfortunately, all tested compounds exhibited high cellular cytotoxicity in cell culture which limits their applications as antiviral agents.

Targeting the HIV Integration Process in Antiviral Therapy

In Search of Small Molecules Blocking Interactions Between HIV Proteins and Intracellular Cofactors

One of the major obstacles to pursue the discovery of small molecule inhibitors targeting protein-protein interactions is the flat nature of their interface. X-Ray structures have indeed shown that a large part of the interaction area is buried with atoms closely packed together, implying a lack of available cavities for small molecule binding. Yet, it has become clear that some protein-protein interfaces have a well-defined compact area, commonly referred to as a hot spot, that plays a major role in the affinity of the interaction. These hot spots define potential targets for the development of small molecule protein-protein interaction inhibitors (SMPPIIs). In this review we discuss the interactions between viral and host proteins that have the potential for the future development of SMPPIIs. In light of the current anti-HIV therapy a short overview of protein-protein interactions that may serve as targets for novel drugs is provided. Our hypothesis will exemplify and discuss the interaction between HIV-1 integrase and its cellular cofactor LEDGF/p75, which, as evidenced by crystallography and site directed mutagenesis, displays favourable properties needed for the development of interaction inhibitors.

Docking Studies on a New Human Immunodeficiency Virus Integrase-Mg-DNA Complex: Phenyl Ring Exploration and Synthesis of 1H-benzylindole Derivatives Through Fluorine Substitutions

A new model of HIV-1 integrase-Mg-DNA complex that is useful for docking experiments has been built. It was used to study the binding mode of integrase strand transfer inhibitor 1 (CHI-1043) and other fluorine analogues. Molecular modeling results prompted us to synthesize the designed derivatives which showed potent enzymatic inhibition at nanomolar concentration, high antiviral activity, and low toxicity. Microwave assisted organic synthesis (MAOS) was employed in several steps of the synthetic pathway, thus reducing reaction times and improving yields.

Lens Epithelium-derived Growth Factor/p75 Interacts with the Transposase-derived DDE Domain of PogZ

Lens epithelium-derived growth factor/p75 (LEDGF/p75) is a prominent cellular interaction partner of human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) integrase, tethering the preintegration complex to the host chromosome. In light of the development of LEDGF/p75-integrase interaction inhibitors, it is essential to understand the cell biology of LEDGF/p75. We identified pogZ as new cellular interaction partner of LEDGF/p75. Analogous to lentiviral integrase, pogZ, a domesticated transposase, carries a DDE domain, the major determinant for LEDGF/p75 interaction. Using different in vitro and in vivo approaches, we corroborated the interaction between the C terminus of LEDGF/p75 and the DDE domain of pogZ, revealing an overlap in the binding of pogZ and HIV-1 integrase. Competition experiments showed that integrase is efficient in displacing pogZ from LEDGF/p75. Moreover, pogZ does not seem to play a role as a restriction factor of HIV. The finding that LEDGF/p75 is capable of interacting with a DDE domain protein that is not a lentiviral integrase points to a profound role of LEDGF/p75 in DDE domain protein function.

Highly Efficient Multicistronic Lentiviral Vectors with Peptide 2A Sequences

Gene discovery and gene therapy call for advanced technologies to reliably assess gene expression; efficient coupling of gene expression to the expression of reporter genes is critical. Various noninvasive molecular imaging modalities have emerged to track biological processes in animal models. Here, we evaluate various strategies to link transgene expression with that of an (imaging) reporter gene. Using lentiviral vectors containing internal ribosomal entry sites (IRES), 2A-like peptides, or a bidirectional promoter, we compared their ability to ensure efficient coexpression of multiple reporter genes. Although the encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV) IRES yielded functional bicistronic vectors, the expression level of the reporter downstream of IRES was consistently lower than that of the upstream transgene. Interestingly, peptide 2A constructs performed best in vitro and in vivo, providing effective noninvasive follow-up of transgene expression and having reporter gene expression levels in line with that of the single reporter constructs. The intrinsic "cleavage" property of the peptide 2A sequences allows each protein to be produced at proportional levels, opening ample possibilities for functional genomics and future gene therapeutic applications. Last, using various peptide 2A sequences, we engineered the triple reporter LV-3R (i.e., eGFP, fLuc, HSV1-sr39tk), enabling efficient multimodality readouts in vivo.

Exploration of Novel Thiobarbituric Acid-, Rhodanine- and Thiohydantoin-based HIV-1 Integrase Inhibitors

A novel compound inhibiting HIV-1 integrase has been identified by means of virtual screening techniques. A small family of structurally related molecules has been synthesized and biologically evaluated with some of the compounds possessing micromolar activity both in enzymatic and cellular assays.

Synthesis and Biological Evaluation of (11)C-labeled Beta-galactosyl Triazoles As Potential PET Tracers for in Vivo LacZ Reporter Gene Imaging

In our aim to develop LacZ reporter probes with a good retention in LacZ expressing cells, we report the synthesis and preliminary evaluation of two carbon-11 labeled beta-galactosyl triazoles 1-(beta-d-galactopyranosyl)-4-(p-[(11)C]methoxyphenyl)-1,2,3-triazole ([(11)C]-6) and 1-(beta-d-galactopyranosyl)-4-(6-[(11)C]methoxynaphthyl)-1,2,3-triazole ([(11)C]-13). The precursors for the radiolabeling and the non-radioactive analogues (6 and 13) were synthesized using straightforward 'click' chemistry. In vitro incubation experiments of 6 with beta-galactosidase in the presence of o-nitrophenyl beta-d-galactopyranoside (ONPG) showed that the triazolic compound was an inhibitor of beta-galactosidase activity. Radiolabeling of both precursors was performed using [(11)C]methyl iodide as alkylating agent at 70 degrees C in DMF in the presence of a small amount of base. The logP values were -0.1 and 1.4, respectively, for [(11)C]-6 and [(11)C]-13, the latter therefore being a good candidate for increased cellular uptake via passive diffusion. Biodistribution studies in normal mice showed a good clearance from blood for both tracers. [(11)C]-6 was mainly cleared via the renal pathway, while the more lipophilic [(11)C]-13 was excreted almost exclusively via the hepatobiliary system. Despite the lipophilicity of [(11)C]-13, no brain uptake was observed. Reversed phase HPLC analysis of murine plasma and urine revealed high in vivo stability for both tracers. In vitro evaluation in HEK-293T cells showed an increased cell uptake for the more lipophilic [(11)C]-13, however, there was no statistically higher uptake in LacZ expressing cells compared to control cells.

Seeing Genes at Work in the Living Brain with Non-invasive Molecular Imaging

Over the past ten years, a variety of imaging techniques have been developed that allow non-invasive detection of gene expression within the brain of intact mammals, ranging from mouse to man. The basic concepts of these imaging techniques, including positron emission tomography, single photon emission computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy, bioluminescence imaging and fluorescent imaging, are discussed. The expression of imaging reporter genes can be detected and quantified by these imaging techniques, which allow to unravel the temporospatial dynamics of gene expression within the intact living animal. Different imaging reporter genes have been developed each with their specific use in the basic and clinical neurosciences. Applications of reporter gene imaging can be found in neurooncology, infectious disease of the central nervous system, brain gene transfer, neural cellular therapy and in transgenic mice. Strategies that aim to image gene expression based on detection of mRNA levels have also been developed. We anticipate that these techniques will have a strong impact on preclinical neuroscience and will be of utmost importance in the implementation of gene and cell therapy for diseases of the brain.

Pharmacophore-based Discovery of Small-molecule Inhibitors of Protein-protein Interactions Between HIV-1 Integrase and Cellular Cofactor LEDGF/p75

The cellular protein lens epithelium-derived growth factor, or transcriptional coactivator p75 (LEDGF/p75), plays a crucial role in HIV integration. The protein-protein interactions (PPIs) between HIV-1 integrase (IN) and its cellular cofactor LEDGF/p75 may therefore serve as targets for the development of new anti-HIV drugs. In this work, a structure-based pharmacophore model for potential small-molecule inhibitors of HIV-1 IN-LEDGF/p75 interaction was developed using the LigandScout software. The 3D model obtained was used for virtual screening of our in-house chemical database, CHIME, leading to the identification of compound CHIBA-3002 as an interesting hit for further optimization. The rational design, synthesis and biological evaluation of four derivatives were then carried out. Our studies resulted in the discovery of a new and more potent small molecule (7, CHIBA-3003) that is able to interfere with the HIV-1 IN-LEDGF/p75 interaction at micromolar concentration, representing one of the first compounds to show activity against these specific PPIs. Docking simulations were subsequently performed in order to investigate the possible binding mode of our new lead compound to HIV-1 IN. This study is a valid starting point for the identification of anti-HIV agents with a different mechanism of action from currently available antiviral drugs.

State-of-the-art Lentiviral Vectors for Research Use: Risk Assessment and Biosafety Recommendations

Lentiviral vectors (LV) are competent gene transfer vehicles, as used for both research and gene therapy applications, because of their stable integration in non-dividing and dividing cells and long-term transgene expression. Along with our understanding that LV offer solutions for gene therapy, biosafety concerns have uncovered risks due to insertional mutagenesis, the generation of replication competent lentiviruses (RCL) and vector mobilization. Researchers therefore continue to devote significant efforts in designing LV with improved efficacy and biosafety features. The choice of a particular LV system for experimental studies is often driven by functional considerations, including increased productivity and/or transduction efficiency. The design of safer vectors has also directly benefited researchers allowing them to conduct experimental studies with lower risk. Currently, vectors combine improved safety features (that decrease the risk of recombination and vector mobilization) with increased transduction efficiency. Hence, risks associated with the inadvertent transduction of cells of the investigator gain greater importance in assessing the overall risk of these vectors and become an important biosafety concern. This review outlines the different strategies used to improve LV biosafety by comparing state-of-the-art and emerging LV production systems and highlighting biosafety issues that can arise during their contained use. The few existing national and international biosafety recommendations that specifically address the use of LV in research are discussed and recommendations for most common research activities using LV are proposed.

In Search of Second-generation HIV Integrase Inhibitors: Targeting Integration Beyond Strand Transfer

Highly active antiretroviral therapy combines antiviral drugs targeting different steps in the HIV replication cycle in order to reduce viral loads in patients to undetectable levels. Since HIV readily develops resistance and can therefore escape the action of existing drugs, novel drugs with novel mechanisms of action must be developed. The integration of the viral genome into the human genome is an essential and critical replication step that is catalyzed by the viral integrase with the help of cellular cofactors. Although HIV-1 integrase has been studied for more than two decades, the first integrase inhibitor, raltegravir, was only recently approved for clinical use. A second compound, elvitegravir, is currently in advanced clinical trials. Both drugs interfere with the strand-transfer reaction of integrase. Due to the complexity and multistep nature of the integration reaction, several other functions of integrase can be exploited for drug discovery. In this review, we will describe these alternative strategies to inhibit integration. They have recently attracted considerable interest for the development of second-generation integrase inhibitors.

Fetal Surgery is a Clinical Reality

An increasing number of fetal anomalies are being diagnosed prior to birth, some of them amenable to fetal surgical intervention. We discuss the current clinical status and recent advances in endoscopic and open surgical interventions. In Europe, fetoscopic interventions are widely embraced, whereas the uptake of open fetal surgery is much less. The indications for each access modality are different, hence they cannot substitute each other. Although the stage of technical experimentation is over, most interventions remain investigational. Today there is level I evidence that fetoscopic laser surgery for twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome is the preferred therapy, but this operation actually takes place on the placenta. In terms of surgery on the fetus, an increasingly frequent indication is severe congenital diaphragmatic hernia as well as myelomeningocele. Overall maternal safety is high, but rupture of the membranes and preterm delivery remain a problem. The increasing application of fetal surgery and its mediagenicity has triggered the interest to embark on fetal surgical therapy, although the complexity as well as the overall rare indications are a limitation to sufficient experience on an individual basis. We plead for increased exchange between high volume units and collaborative studies; there may also be a case for self-regulation. Inclusion of patients into trials whenever possible should be encouraged rather than building up casuistic experience.

Inhibition of FK506 Binding Proteins Reduces Alpha-synuclein Aggregation and Parkinson's Disease-like Pathology

alpha-Synuclein (alpha-SYN) is a key player in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD). In pathological conditions, the protein is present in a fibrillar, aggregated form inside cytoplasmic inclusions called Lewy bodies. Members of the FK506 binding protein (FKBP) family are peptidyl-prolyl isomerases that were shown recently to accelerate the aggregation of alpha-SYN in vitro. We now established a neuronal cell culture model for synucleinopathy based on oxidative stress-induced alpha-SYN aggregation and apoptosis. Using high-content analysis, we examined the role of FKBPs in aggregation and apoptotic cell death. FK506, a specific inhibitor of this family of proteins, inhibited alpha-SYN aggregation and neuronal cell death in this synucleinopathy model dose dependently. Knockdown of FKBP12 or FKBP52 reduced the number of alpha-SYN aggregates and protected against cell death, whereas overexpression of FKBP12 or FKBP52 accelerated both aggregation of alpha-SYN and cell death. Thus, FK506 likely targets FKBP members in the cell culture model. Furthermore, oral administration of FK506 after viral vector-mediated overexpression of alpha-SYN in adult mouse brain significantly reduced alpha-SYN aggregate formation and neuronal cell death. Our data explain previously described neuroregenerative and neuroprotective effects of immunophilin ligands and validate FKBPs as a novel drug target for the causative treatment of PD.

Immunohistochemical Detection of Transgene Expression in the Brain Using Small Epitope Tags

In vivo overexpression of proteins is a powerful approach to study their biological function, generate disease models or evaluate gene therapy approaches. In order to investigate an exogenously expressed protein, specific and sensitive detection is essential. Unfortunately, antibodies that allow histological detection of the protein of interest are not always readily available. The use of an epitope tag fused to the protein can circumvent this problem as well as provide the possibility to discriminate endogenous from overexpressed proteins. In order to minimize impact on the bioactivity and biodistribution of the overexpressed protein, preference is given to small tags.

Morphologic and Functional Changes in the Unilateral 6-hydroxydopamine Lesion Rat Model for Parkinson's Disease Discerned with MicroSPECT and Quantitative MRI

In the present study, we aimed to evaluate the impact of neurodegeneration of the nigrostriatal tract in a rodent model of Parkinson's disease on the different MR contrasts (T(2), T(1), CBF and CBV) measured in the striatum.

LEDGF Hybrids Efficiently Retarget Lentiviral Integration into Heterochromatin

Correction of genetic diseases requires integration of the therapeutic gene copy into the genome of patient cells. Retroviruses are commonly used as delivery vehicles because of their precise integration mechanism, but their use has led to adverse events in which vector integration activated proto-oncogenes and contributed to leukemogenesis. Here, we show that integration by lentiviral vectors can be targeted away from genes using an artificial tethering factor. During normal lentivirus infection, the host cell-encoded transcriptional coactivator lens epithelium-derived growth factor/p75 (LEDGF/p75) binds lentiviral integrase (IN), thereby targeting integration to active transcription units and increasing the efficiency of infection. We replaced the LEDGF/p75 chromatin interaction-binding domain with CBX1. CBX1 binds histone H3 di- or trimethylated on K9, which is associated with pericentric heterochromatin and intergenic regions. The chimeric protein supported efficient transduction of lentiviral vectors and directed the integration outside of genes, near bound CBX1. Despite integration in regions rich in epigenetic marks associated with gene silencing, lentiviral vector expression remained efficient. Thus, engineered LEDGF/p75 chimeras provide technology for controlling integration site selection by lentiviral vectors.

Differential Effects of Progenitor Cell Populations on Left Ventricular Remodeling and Myocardial Neovascularization After Myocardial Infarction

We compared biological repair after acute myocardial infarction (AMI) with selected porcine progenitor cell populations.

Rational Design of Small-molecule Inhibitors of the LEDGF/p75-integrase Interaction and HIV Replication

Lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF/p75) is a cellular cofactor of HIV-1 integrase that promotes viral integration by tethering the preintegration complex to the chromatin. By virtue of its crucial role in the early steps of HIV replication, the interaction between LEDGF/p75 and integrase represents an attractive target for antiviral therapy. We have rationally designed a series of 2-(quinolin-3-yl)acetic acid derivatives (LEDGINs) that act as potent inhibitors of the LEDGF/p75-integrase interaction and HIV-1 replication at submicromolar concentration by blocking the integration step. A 1.84-A resolution crystal structure corroborates the binding of the inhibitor in the LEDGF/p75-binding pocket of integrase. Together with the lack of cross-resistance with two clinical integrase inhibitors, these findings define the 2-(quinolin-3-yl)acetic acid derivatives as the first genuine allosteric HIV-1 integrase inhibitors. Our work demonstrates the feasibility of rational design of small molecules inhibiting the protein-protein interaction between a viral protein and a cellular host factor.

High-resolution Profiling of the LEDGF/p75 Chromatin Interaction in the ENCODE Region

Lens epithelium-derived growth factor/p75 (LEDGF/p75) is a transcriptional coactivator involved in stress response, autoimmune disease, cancer and HIV replication. A fusion between the nuclear pore protein NUP98 and LEDGF/p75 has been found in human acute and chronic myeloid leukemia and association of LEDGF/p75 with mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL)/menin is critical for leukemic transformation. During lentiviral replication, LEDGF/p75 tethers the pre-integration complex to the host chromatin resulting in a bias of integration into active transcription units (TUs). The consensus function of LEDGF/p75 is tethering of cargos to chromatin. In this regard, we determined the LEDGF/p75 chromatin binding profile. To this purpose, we used DamID technology and focused on the highly annotated ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) regions. LEDGF/p75 primarily binds downstream of the transcription start site of active TUs in agreement with the enrichment of HIV-1 integration sites at these locations. We show that LEDGF/p75 binding is not restricted to stress response elements in the genome, and correlation analysis with more than 200 genomic features revealed an association with active chromatin markers, such as H3 and H4 acetylation, H3K4 monomethylation and RNA polymerase II binding. Interestingly, some associations did not correlate with HIV-1 integration indicating that not all LEDGF/p75 complexes on the chromosome are amenable to HIV-1 integration.

Rapid, Simple, and Versatile Manufacturing of Recombinant Adeno-associated Viral Vectors at Scale

Adeno-associated viral (AAV) manufacturing at scale continues to hinder the application of AAV technology to gene therapy studies. Although scalable systems based on AAV-adenovirus, AAV-herpesvirus, and AAV-baculovirus hybrids hold promise for clinical applications, they require time-consuming generation of reagents and are not highly suited to intermediate-scale preclinical studies in large animals, in which several combinations of serotype and genome may need to be tested. We observed that during production of many AAV serotypes, large amounts of vector are found in the culture supernatant, a relatively pure source of vector in comparison with cell-derived material. Here we describe a high-yielding, recombinant AAV production process based on polyethylenimine (PEI)-mediated transfection of HEK293 cells and iodixanol gradient centrifugation of concentrated culture supernatant. The entire process can be completed in 1 week and the steps involved are universal for a number of different AAV serotypes. Process conditions have been optimized such that final purified yields are routinely greater than 1 x 10(14) genome copies per run, with capsid protein purity exceeding 90%. Initial experiments with vectors produced by the new process demonstrate equivalent or better transduction both in vitro and in vivo when compared with small-scale, CsCl gradient-purified vectors. In addition, the iodixanol gradient purification process described effectively separates infectious particles from empty capsids, a desirable property for reducing toxicity and unwanted immune responses during preclinical studies.

New 2-arylnaphthalenediols and Triol Inhibitors of HIV-1 Integrase--discovery of a New Polyhydroxylated Antiviral Agent

A series of 13 hydroxylated 2-arylnaphthalenes have been synthesized and evaluated as HIV-1 integrase inhibitors. 7-(3,4,5-trihydroxyphenyl)naphthalene-1,2,3-triol 1c revealed chemical instability upon storage, leading to the isolation of a dimer 5c which was also tested. In the 2-arylnaphthalene series, all compounds were active against HIV-1 IN with IC50's within the 1-10 microM range, except for 1c and 5c which displayed submicromolar activity. Antiviral activity against HIV-1 replication was measured on 1b-c and 5c. Amongst the tested molecules, only 5c was found to present antiviral properties with a low cytotoxicity on two different cell lines.

New Chloro,fluorobenzylindole Derivatives As Integrase Strand-transfer Inhibitors (INSTIs) and Their Mode of Action

The life cycle of HIV-1 requires extensive assistance from the integrase (IN) enzyme which therefore constitutes an attractive therapeutic target for the development of anti-AIDS agents. We herein report the synthesis and biological evaluation of new HIV integrase strand-transfer inhibitors (INSTIs) which proved to be also potent anti-HIV agents. The binding mode of the most representative molecules were also studied by induced-fit docking (IFD). The obtained IFD results were consistent with the mechanism of action proposed for this class of IN inhibitors, that is metal chelating/binding agents.

Efficient Gene Transfer into the Mouse Lung by Fetal Intratracheal Injection of RAAV2/6.2

Fetal gene therapy is one of the possible new therapeutic strategies for congenital or perinatal diseases with high mortality or morbidity. We developed a novel delivery strategy to inject directly into the fetal mouse trachea. Intratracheal (i.t.) injection at embryonic day 18 (E18) was more efficient in targeting the fetal lung than conventional intra-amniotic (i.a.) delivery. Viral vectors derived from adeno-associated virus serotype 6.2, with tropism for the airway epithelium and not earlier tested in the fetal mouse lung, were injected into the fetal trachea. Bioluminescence (BL) imaging (BLI) was combined with magnetic resonance (MR) imaging (MRI) for noninvasive and accurate localization of transgene expression in vivo. Histological analysis for β-galactosidase (β-gal) revealed 17.5% of epithelial cells transduced in the conducting airways and 1.5% in the alveolar cells. Stable gene expression was observed up to 1 month after injection. This study demonstrates that direct injection of rAAV2/6.2 in the fetal mouse trachea is superior to i.a. delivery for transducing the lung. Second, as stable gene transfer was detected up to 1 postnatal month, this approach may be useful to evaluate fetal gene therapy for pulmonary diseases such as cystic fibrosis, requiring both substantial numbers of transduced cells as well as prolonged gene expression to obtain a stable phenotypic effect.

Small Molecules Targeting the Interaction Between HIV-1 Integrase and LEDGF/p75 Cofactor

The search of small molecules as protein-protein interaction inhibitors represents a new attractive strategy to develop anti-HIV-1 agents. We previously reported a computational study that led to the discovery of new inhibitors of the interaction between enzyme HIV-1 integrase (IN) and the nuclear protein lens epithelium growth factor LEDGF/p75.(1) Herein, we describe new findings about the binding site of LEDGF/p75 on IN employing a different computational approach. In this way further structural requirements, helpful to disrupt LEDGF/p75-IN binding, have been identified. The main result of this work was the exploration of a relevant hydrophobic region. So we planned the introduction of suitable and simple chemical modifications on our previously reported 'hit' and the new synthesized compounds were subjected to biological tests. The results obtained demonstrate that the hydrophobic pocket could play a key role in improving inhibitory efficacy thus opening new suggestions to design active ligands.

The Transcriptional Co-activator LEDGF/p75 Displays a Dynamic Scan-and-lock Mechanism for Chromatin Tethering

Nearly all cellular and disease related functions of the transcriptional co-activator lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF/p75) involve tethering of interaction partners to chromatin via its conserved integrase binding domain (IBD), but little is known about the mechanism of in vivo chromatin binding and tethering. In this work we studied LEDGF/p75 in real-time in living HeLa cells combining different quantitative fluorescence techniques: spot fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (sFRAP) and half-nucleus fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (hnFRAP), continuous photobleaching, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) and an improved FCS method to study diffusion dependence of chromatin binding, tunable focus FCS. LEDGF/p75 moves about in nuclei of living cells in a chromatin hopping/scanning mode typical for transcription factors. The PWWP domain of LEDGF/p75 is necessary, but not sufficient for in vivo chromatin binding. After interaction with HIV-1 integrase via its IBD, a general protein-protein interaction motif, kinetics of LEDGF/p75 shift to 75-fold larger affinity for chromatin. The PWWP is crucial for locking the complex on chromatin. We propose a scan-and-lock model for LEDGF/p75, unifying paradoxical notions of transcriptional co-activation and lentiviral integration targeting.

2-hydroxyisoquinoline-1,3(2H,4H)-diones As Inhibitors of HIV-1 Integrase and Reverse Transcriptase RNase H Domain: Influence of the Alkylation of Position 4

We report herein the synthesis of a series of fifteen 2-hydroxyisoquinoline-1,3(2H,4H)-dione derivatives. Alkyl and arylalkyl groups were introduced on position 4 of the basis scaffold. All the compounds presented poor inhibitory properties against HIV-1 reverse transcriptase ribonuclease H (RNase H). Four compounds inhibited HIV-1 integrase at a low micromolar level. A docking study using the later crystallographic data available for PFV integrase allowed us to explain the slightly improved integrase inhibitory activities of 4-pentyl and 4-(3-phenylpropyl)-2-hydroxyisoquinoline-1,3(2H,4H)-diones, when compared to the basis scaffold. Physicochemical studies were consistent with 1:1 and 1:2 (metal/ligand) stoichiometries of the magnesium complexes in solution. Unfortunately all tested compounds exhibited high cellular cytotoxicity in cell culture which limited their applications as antiviral agents. However these identified integrase inhibitors provide a very good basis for the development of new hits.

HIV-1 Integrase Strand-transfer Inhibitors: Design, Synthesis and Molecular Modeling Investigation

This study is focused on a new series of benzylindole derivatives with various substituents at the benzene-fused ring, suggested by our 3D pharmacophore model developed for HIV-1 integrase inhibitors (INIs). All synthesized compounds proved to be active in the nanomolar range (6-35 nM) on the strand-transfer step (ST). In particular, derivative 4-[1-(4-fluorobenzyl)-5,7-dimethoxy-1H-indol-3-yl]-2-hydroxy-4-oxobut-2-enoic acid (8e), presenting the highest best-fit value on pharmacophore model, showed a potency comparable to that of clinical INSTIs GS 9137 (1) and MK-0518 (2). The binding mode of our molecules has been investigated using the recently published crystal structure of the complex of full-length integrase from the prototype foamy virus in complex with its cognate DNA (PFV-IN/DNA). The results highlighted the ability of derivative 8e to assume the same binding mode of MK-0518 and GS 9137.

A Versatile and Practical Synthesis Toward the Development of Novel HIV-1 Integrase Inhibitors

As a continuation of our previous work, which resulted in the identification of a new hit compound as an HIV-1 integrase inhibitor, three novel series of salicylic acid derivatives were synthesized using three versatile and practical synthetic strategies and were assayed for their capacity to inhibit the catalytic activity of HIV-1 integrase. Biological evaluations revealed that some of the synthesized compounds possess good inhibitory potency in enzymatic assays and are able to inhibit viral replication in MT-4 cells at low micromolar concentrations. Finally, docking studies were conducted to analyze the binding mode of the synthesized compounds within the DNA binding site of integrase in order to refine their structure-activity relationships.

Interplay Between HIV Entry and Transportin-SR2 Dependency

Transportin-SR2 (TRN-SR2, TNPO3, transportin 3) was previously identified as an interaction partner of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) integrase and functions as a nuclear import factor of HIV-1. A possible role of capsid in transportin-SR2-mediated nuclear import was recently suggested by the findings that a chimeric HIV virus, carrying the murine leukemia virus (MLV) capsid and matrix proteins, displayed a transportin-SR2 independent phenotype, and that the HIV-1 N74D capsid mutant proved insensitive to transportin-SR2 knockdown.

Magnesium Chelating 2-hydroxyisoquinoline-1,3(2H,4H)-diones, As Inhibitors of HIV-1 Integrase And/or the HIV-1 Reverse Transcriptase Ribonuclease H Domain: Discovery of a Novel Selective Inhibitor of the Ribonuclease H Function

2-Hydroxyisoquinoline-1,3(2H,4H)-dione was recently discovered as a scaffold for the inhibition of HIV-1 integrase and the ribonuclease H function of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase. First, we investigate its interaction with Mg(2+) and Mn(2+) using different spectroscopic techniques and report that 2-hydroxyisoquinoline-1,3(2H,4H)-dione forms a 1:1 complex with Mg(2+) but a 1:2 complex with Mn(2+). The complex formation requires enolization of the ligand. ESR spectroscopy shows a redox reaction between the ligand and Mn(2+) producing superoxide anions. Second, 2-hydroxyisoquinoline-1,3(2H,4H)-dione, its magnesium complex, and its 4-methyl and 2-hydroxy-4-methoxycarbonylisoquinoline-1,3(2H,4H)-diones were tested as inhibitors of HIV-1 integrase, reverse transcriptase ribonuclease H, and DNA polymerase functions. Their antiviral activities were evaluated and 2-hydroxy-4-methoxycarbonyl-isoquinoline-1,3(2H,4H)-dione was found to inhibit the viral replication of HIV-1 in MT-4 cells. Cross-resistance was measured for this compound on three different viral strains. Experimental data suggest that the antiviral activity of 2-hydroxy-4-methoxycarbonylisoquinoline-1,3(2H,4H)-dione is probably due to the RNase H inhibition.

Depletion of PINK1 Affects Mitochondrial Metabolism, Calcium Homeostasis and Energy Maintenance

Loss-of-function mutations in the gene encoding the mitochondrial PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1) are a major cause of early-onset familial Parkinson's disease (PD). Recent studies have highlighted an important function for PINK1 in clearing depolarized mitochondria by mitophagy. However, the role of PINK1 in mitochondrial and cellular functioning in physiological conditions is still incompletely understood. Here, we investigate mitochondrial and cellular calcium (Ca(2+)) homeostasis in PINK1-knockdown and PINK1-knockout mouse cells, both in basal metabolic conditions and after physiological stimulation, using unbiased automated live single-cell imaging in combination with organelle-specific fluorescent probes. Our data reveal that depletion of PINK1 induces moderate fragmentation of the mitochondrial network, mitochondrial membrane depolarization and increased production of reactive oxygen species. This results in reduced uptake of Ca(2+) by mitochondria after physiological stimulation. As a consequence, cells with knockdown or knockout of PINK1 display impaired mitochondrial ATP synthesis, which is exacerbated under conditions of increased ATP demand, thereby affecting cytosolic Ca(2+) extrusion. The impairment in energy maintenance was confirmed in the brain of PINK1-knockout mice by in vivo bioluminescence imaging. Our findings demonstrate a key role for PINK1 in the regulation of mitochondrial homeostasis and energy metabolism under physiological conditions.

Unraveling the Role of Peptidyl-prolyl Isomerases in Neurodegeneration

Immunophilins are a family of highly conserved proteins with a peptidyl-prolyl isomerase activity that binds immunosuppressive drugs such as FK506, cyclosporin A, and rapamycin. Immunophilins can be divided into two subfamilies, the cyclophilins, and the FK506 binding proteins (FKBPs). Next to the immunophilins, a third group of peptidyl-prolyl isomerases exist, the parvulins, which do not influence the immune system. The beneficial role of immunophilin ligands in neurodegenerative disease models has been known for more than a decade but remains largely unexplained in terms of molecular mechanisms. In this review, we summarize reported effects of parvulins, immunophilins, and their ligands in the context of neurodegeneration. We focus on the role of FKBP12 in Parkinson's disease and propose it as a novel drug target for therapy of Parkinson's disease.

Comparative Analysis of Different Peptidyl-prolyl Isomerases Reveals FK506-binding Protein 12 As the Most Potent Enhancer of Alpha-synuclein Aggregation

FK506-binding proteins (FKBPs) are members of the immunophilins, enzymes that assist protein folding with their peptidyl-prolyl isomerase (PPIase) activity. Some non-immunosuppressive inhibitors of these enzymes have neuroregenerative and neuroprotective properties with an unknown mechanism of action. We have previously shown that FKBPs accelerate the aggregation of α-synuclein (α-SYN) in vitro and in a neuronal cell culture model for synucleinopathy. In this study we investigated whether acceleration of α-SYN aggregation is specific for the FKBP or even the PPIase family. Therefore, we studied the effect of several physiologically relevant PPIases, namely FKBP12, FKBP38, FKBP52, FKBP65, Pin1, and cyclophilin A, on α-SYN aggregation in vitro and in neuronal cell culture. Among all PPIases tested in vitro, FKBP12 accelerated α-SYN aggregation the most. Furthermore, only FKBP12 accelerated α-SYN fibril formation at subnanomolar concentrations, pointing toward an enzymatic effect. Although stable overexpression of various FKBPs enhanced the aggregation of α-SYN and cell death in cell culture, they were less potent than FKBP12. When FKBP38, FKBP52, and FKBP65 were overexpressed in a stable FKBP12 knockdown cell line, they could not fully restore the number of α-SYN inclusion-positive cells. Both in vitro and cell culture data provide strong evidence that FKBP12 is the most important PPIase modulating α-SYN aggregation and validate the protein as an interesting drug target for Parkinson disease.

A PET Brain Reporter Gene System Based on Type 2 Cannabinoid Receptors

PET of gene expression in the brain may greatly facilitate neuroscience research and potential clinical implementation of gene or cell therapy of central nervous system diseases. To date, no adequate PET reporter system is available for the central nervous system because available tracers either do not cross the intact blood-brain barrier or have high background signals. Here we report the first, to our knowledge, PET reporter system for imaging gene expression in the intact brain.

Association of Polymorphisms in the LEDGF/p75 Gene (PSIP1) with Susceptibility to HIV-1 Infection and Disease Progression

LEDGF/p75, encoded by the PSIP1 gene, interacts with HIV-1 integrase and targets HIV-1 integration into active genes. We investigated the influence of polymorphisms in PSIP1 on HIV-1 acquisition and disease progression in black South Africans.

Toward the Discovery of Novel Anti-HIV Drugs. Second-generation Inhibitors of the Cellular ATPase DDX3 with Improved Anti-HIV Activity: Synthesis, Structure-activity Relationship Analysis, Cytotoxicity Studies, and Target Validation

A hit optimization protocol applied to the first nonnucleoside inhibitor of the ATPase activity of human DEAD-box RNA helicase DDX3 led to the design and synthesis of second-generation rhodanine derivatives with better inhibitory activity toward cellular DDX3 and HIV-1 replication. Additional DDX3 inhibitors were identified among triazine compounds. Biological data were rationalized in terms of structure-activity relationships and docking simulations. Antiviral activity and cytotoxicity of selected DDX3 inhibitors are reported and discussed. A thorough analysis confirmed human DDX3 as a valid anti-HIV target. The compounds described herein represent a significant advance in the pursuit of novel drugs that target HIV-1 host cofactors.

MiR669a and MiR669q Prevent Skeletal Muscle Differentiation in Postnatal Cardiac Progenitors

Postnatal heart stem and progenitor cells are a potential therapeutic tool for cardiomyopathies, but little is known about the mechanisms that control cardiac differentiation. Recent work has highlighted an important role for microribonucleic acids (miRNAs) as regulators of cardiac and skeletal myogenesis. In this paper, we isolated cardiac progenitors from neonatal β-sarcoglycan (Sgcb)-null mouse hearts affected by dilated cardiomyopathy. Unexpectedly, Sgcb-null cardiac progenitors spontaneously differentiated into skeletal muscle fibers both in vitro and when transplanted into regenerating muscles or infarcted hearts. Differentiation potential correlated with the absence of expression of a novel miRNA, miR669q, and with down-regulation of miR669a. Other miRNAs are known to promote myogenesis, but only miR669a and miR669q act upstream of myogenic regulatory factors to prevent myogenesis by directly targeting the MyoD 3' untranslated region. This finding reveals an added level of complexity in the mechanism of the fate choice of mesoderm progenitors and suggests that using endogenous cardiac stem cells therapeutically will require specially tailored procedures for certain genetic diseases.

Synthesis, in Vitro and in Vivo Evaluation of Fluorine-18 Labelled FE-GW405833 As a PET Tracer for Type 2 Cannabinoid Receptor Imaging

The type 2 cannabinoid receptor (CB₂R) is part of the endocannabinoid system and is expressed in tissues related to the immune system. As the CB₂R has a very low brain expression in non-pathological conditions, but is upregulated in activated microglia, it is an interesting target for visualization of neuroinflammation using positron emission tomography with a suitable radiolabeled CB₂R ligand. In this study, we radiolabelled a fluoroethyl derivative of GW405833, a well known CB₂R partial agonist, with fluorine-18 (half-life 109.8 min) by alkylation of the phenol precursor with 1-bromo-2-[¹⁸F]fluoroethane. In vitro studies showed that FE-GW405833 behaved as a selective high affinity (27 nM) inverse agonist for hCB₂R. [¹⁸F]FE-GW405833 showed moderate initial brain uptake in mice and rats, but a slow washout from brain and plasma due to retention of a radiometabolite. Specific binding of the tracer to human CB₂R was demonstrated in vivo in a rat model with local CB₂R overexpression in the brain. Optimized derivatives of GW405833 that are less susceptible to metabolism will need to be developed in order to provide a useful tracer for CB₂R quantification with PET.

In Vitro DNA Tethering of HIV-1 Integrase by the Transcriptional Coactivator LEDGF/p75

Although LEDGF/p75 is believed to act as a cellular cofactor of lentiviral integration by tethering integrase (IN) to chromatin, there is no good in vitro model to analyze this functionality. We designed an AlphaScreen assay to study how LEDGF/p75 modulates the interaction of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 IN with DNA. IN bound with similar affinity to DNA mimicking the long terminal repeat or to random DNA. While LEDGF/p75 bound DNA strongly, a mutant of LEDGF/p75 with compromised nuclear localization signal (NLS)/AT hook interacted weakly, and the LEDGF/p75 PWWP domain did not interact, corroborating previous reports on the role of NLS and AT hooks in charge-dependent DNA binding. LEDGF/p75 stimulated IN binding to DNA 10-fold to 30-fold. Stimulation of IN-DNA binding required a direct interaction between IN and the C-terminus of LEDGF/p75. Addition of either the C-terminus of LEDGF/p75 (amino acids 325-530) or LEDGF/p75 mutated in the NLS/AT hooks interfered with IN binding to DNA. Our results are consistent with an in vitro model of LEDGF/p75-mediated tethering of IN to DNA. The inhibition of IN-DNA interaction by the LEDGF/p75 C-terminus may provide a novel strategy for the inhibition of HIV IN activity and may explain the potent inhibition of HIV replication observed after the overexpression of C-terminal fragments in cell culture.

Rilpivirine: a Step Forward in Tailored HIV Treatment

4-[1-(4-Fluorobenzyl)-4-hydroxy-1H-indol-3-yl]-2-hydroxy-4-oxobut-2-enoic Acid As a Prototype to Develop Dual Inhibitors of HIV-1 Integration Process

In recent years several potent HIV-1 integrase (IN) inhibitors have been identified and after the successful clinical use of raltegravir, they have gained a definitive place in the treatment of HIV-1 infection. Yet, there is a continuous effort to design newer inhibitors that target different steps in the integration process. Furthermore, the increased understanding of IN structural biology has opened novel approaches to inhibit IN, such as targeting its multimerization or interaction with cellular cofactors. On these bases, we have concentrated our research on the identification of small molecules able to inhibit two different stages of the integration process: the IN strand-transfer phase and the IN-LEDGF/p75 interaction. We found that the 4-[1-(4-fluorobenzyl)-4-hydroxy-1H-indol-3-yl]-2-hydroxy-4-oxobut-2-enoic acid (CHI-1043) is an interesting anti-HIV agent exhibiting dual inhibitory effects. This work has suggested the possibility of also constructing an integration dual inhibitor using a design-in strategy.

Role of the PWWP Domain of Lens Epithelium-derived Growth Factor (LEDGF)/p75 Cofactor in Lentiviral Integration Targeting

LEDGF/p75 is a chromatin-interacting, cellular cofactor of HIV integrase that dictates lentiviral integration site preference. In this study we determined the role of the PWWP domain of LEDGF/p75 in tethering and targeting of the lentiviral pre-integration complex, employing potent knockdown cell lines allowing analysis in the absence of endogenous LEDGF/p75. Deletion of the PWWP domain resulted in a diffuse subnuclear distribution pattern, loss of interaction with condensed chromatin, and failure to rescue proviral integration, integration site distribution, and productive virus replication. Substitution of the PWWP domain of LEDGF/p75 with that of hepatoma-derived growth factor or HDGF-related protein-2 rescued viral replication and lentiviral integration site distribution in LEDGF/p75-depleted cells. Replacing all chromatin binding elements of LEDGF/p75 with full-length hepatoma-derived growth factor resulted in more integration in genes combined with a preference for CpG islands. In addition, we showed that any PWWP domain targets SMYD1-like sequences. Analysis of integration preferences of lentiviral vectors for epigenetic marks indicates that the PWWP domain is critical for interactions specifying the relationship of integration sites to regions enriched in specific histone post-translational modifications.

Pathway Specific Gene Expression Profiling Reveals Oxidative Stress Genes Potentially Regulated by Transcription Co-activator LEDGF/p75 in Prostate Cancer Cells

Lens epithelium-derived growth factor p75 (LEDGF/p75) is a stress survival transcription co-activator and autoantigen that is overexpressed in tumors, including prostate cancer (PCa). This oncoprotein promotes resistance to cell death induced by oxidative stress and chemotherapy by mechanisms that remain unclear. To get insights into these mechanisms we identified candidate target stress genes of LEDGF/p75 using pathway-specific gene expression profiling in PCa cells.

Elvitegravir: a Once Daily Alternative to Raltegravir

Preclinical Evaluation of [11C]NE40, a Type 2 Cannabinoid Receptor PET Tracer

Up-regulation of the type 2 cannabinoid receptor (CB(2)R) has been reported in (neuro)inflammatory diseases. In this study, we report the preclinical evaluation of [(11)C]NE40 as positron emission tomography (PET) radioligand for visualization of the CB(2)R.

Nitrogen-containing Polyhydroxylated Aromatics As HIV-1 Integrase Inhibitors: Synthesis, Structure-activity Relationship Analysis, and Biological Activity

Four series of forty-five nitrogen-containing polyhydroxylated aromatics based on caffeic acid phenethyl ester were designed and synthesized as HIV-1 integrase (IN) inhibitors. Most of these compounds inhibited IN catalytic activities in low micromolar range. Among these new analogues, compounds 9e and 9f were the most potent IN inhibitors with IC(50) value of 0.7 μM against strand transfer reaction. Their key structure-activity relationships were also discussed.

The Stress Oncoprotein LEDGF/p75 Interacts with the Methyl CpG Binding Protein MeCP2 and Influences Its Transcriptional Activity

The lens epithelium-derived growth factor p75 (LEDGF/p75) is a transcription coactivator that promotes resistance to oxidative stress- and chemotherapy-induced cell death. LEDGF/p75 is also known as the dense fine speckles autoantigen of 70 kDa (DFS70) and has been implicated in cancer, HIV-AIDS, autoimmunity, and inflammation. To gain insights into mechanisms by which LEDGF/p75 protects cancer cells against stress, we initiated an analysis of its interactions with other transcription factors and the influence of these interactions on stress gene activation. We report here that both LEDGF/p75 and its short splice variant LEDGF/p52 interact with MeCP2, a methylation-associated transcriptional modulator, in vitro and in various human cancer cells. These interactions were established by several complementary approaches: transcription factor protein arrays, pull-down and AlphaScreen assays, coimmunoprecipitation, and nuclear colocalization by confocal microscopy. MeCP2 was found to interact with the N-terminal region shared by LEDGF/p75 and p52, particularly with the PWWP-CR1 domain. Like LEDGF/p75, MeCP2 bound to and transactivated the Hsp27 promoter (Hsp27pr). LEDGF/p75 modestly enhanced MeCP2-induced Hsp27pr transactivation in U2OS osteosarcoma cells, whereas this effect was more pronounced in PC3 prostate cancer cells. LEDGF/p52 repressed Hsp27pr activity in U2OS cells. Interestingly, siRNA-induced silencing of LEDGF/p75 in U2OS cells dramatically elevated MeCP2-mediated Hsp27pr transactivation, whereas this effect was less pronounced in PC3 cells depleted of LEDGF/p75. These results suggest that the LEDGF/p75-MeCP2 interaction differentially influences Hsp27pr activation depending on the cellular and molecular context. These findings are of significance in understanding the contribution of this interaction to the activation of stress survival genes.

Regulator of G-protein Signaling 18 Controls Megakaryopoiesis and the Cilia-mediated Vertebrate Mechanosensory System

RGS18 was originally identified as a R4 subfamily member of regulators of G-protein signaling (RGS) with specific expression in hematopoietic progenitors, myeloerythroid cells, and megakaryocytes, though its physiological role in hematopoiesis remained unknown. Here, we show that lentiviral RGS18 overexpression during differentiation of mouse Sca1(+) hematopoietic stem cells induced a 50% increase of megakaryocyte proliferation. RGS18 depletion in zebrafish results in thrombocytopenia, as 66 to 88% of the embryos lack thrombocytes after injection of an ATG or splice-blocking morpholino, respectively. These embryos have no defects in early hematopoiesis, erythropoiesis, or leukocyte number and migration. In addition, all RGS18 depleted embryos have curly tails and an almost absent response to acoustic stimuli. In situ hybridization in zebrafish, Xenopus, and mouse embryos shows RGS18 expression in thrombocytes and/or hematological tissues but also in brain and otic vesicles. RGS18 interferes with development of cilia in hair cells of the inner ear and neuromast cells. On the basis of literature evidence that RGS-R4 members interact with the G-protein-modulated Wnt/calcium pathway, Wnt5b- but not Wnt5a-depleted embryos phenocopy all RGS18 knockdown effects. In summary, our study is the first to show that RGS18 regulates megakaryopoiesis but also reveals its unexpected role in ciliogenesis, at least in lower vertebrates, via interference with Wnt signaling.

Lens Epithelium-derived Growth Factor/p75 Qualifies As a Target for HIV Gene Therapy in the NSG Mouse Model

Lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF/p75) is an essential cofactor of HIV integration. Both stable overexpression of the C-terminal part of LEDGF/p75 (LEDGF(325-530)) containing the integrase (IN)-binding domain (IBD) and stable knockdown (KD) of LEDGF/p75 are known to inhibit HIV infection in laboratory cell lines. Here, primary human CD(4)(+) T-cells were transduced with lentiviral vectors encoding LEDGF(325-530), the interaction-deficient mutant LEDGF(325-530)D366N, or a hairpin depleting LEDGF/p75 and challenged with HIV. Maximal protection of primary T-cells from HIV infection was obtained after LEDGF(325-530) overexpression reducing HIV replication 40-fold without evidence of cellular toxicity. This strategy was subsequently evaluated in the NOD.Cg-Prkdc(scid) Il2rg(tm1Wjl)/SzJ (NSG) mouse model. Threefold reduction in mean plasma viral load was obtained in mice engrafted with CD(4)(+) T-cells expressing LEDGF(325-530) in comparison with engraftment with LEDGF(325-530)D366N cells. Four weeks after transplantation with LEDGF(325-530)D366N cells, 70% of the CD(4)(+) cells were lost due to ongoing HIV replication. However, in mice transplanted with LEDGF(325-530) cells only a 20% decrease in CD(4)(+) cells was measured. Liver and spleen sections of LEDGF(325-530) mice contained less HIV than LEDGF(325-530)D366N mice as measured by p24 antigen detection. LEDGF(325-530) overexpression potently inhibits HIV replication in vivo and protects against HIV mediated cell killing of primary CD(4)(+) T-cells.

Development of an AlphaScreen-based HIV-1 Integrase Dimerization Assay for Discovery of Novel Allosteric Inhibitors

In recent years, HIV-1 integrase (IN) has become an established target in the field of antiretroviral drug discovery. However, its sole clinically approved inhibitor, the integrase strand transfer inhibitor (INSTI) raltegravir, has a surprisingly low genetic barrier for resistance. Furthermore, the only two other integrase inhibitors currently in advanced clinical trials, elvitegravir and dolutegravir, share its mechanism of action and certain resistance pathways. To maintain a range of treatment options, drug discovery efforts are now turning toward allosteric IN inhibitors, which should be devoid of cross-resistance with INSTIs. As IN requires a precise and dynamic equilibrium between several oligomeric species for its activities, the modulation of this equilibrium presents an interesting allosteric target. We report on the development, characterization, and validation of an AlphaScreen-based assay for high-throughput screening for modulators of HIV-1 IN dimerization. Compounds identified as hits in this assay proved to act as allosteric IN inhibitors. Additionally, the assay offers a flexible platform to study IN dimerization.

LEDGF/p75-independent HIV-1 Replication Demonstrates a Role for HRP-2 and Remains Sensitive to Inhibition by LEDGINs

Lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF/p75) is a cellular cofactor of HIV-1 integrase (IN) that interacts with IN through its IN binding domain (IBD) and tethers the viral pre-integration complex to the host cell chromatin. Here we report the generation of a human somatic LEDGF/p75 knockout cell line that allows the study of spreading HIV-1 infection in the absence of LEDGF/p75. By homologous recombination the exons encoding the LEDGF/p75 IBD (exons 11 to 14) were knocked out. In the absence of LEDGF/p75 replication of laboratory HIV-1 strains was severely delayed while clinical HIV-1 isolates were replication-defective. The residual replication was predominantly mediated by the Hepatoma-derived growth factor related protein 2 (HRP-2), the only cellular protein besides LEDGF/p75 that contains an IBD. Importantly, the recently described IN-LEDGF/p75 inhibitors (LEDGINs) remained active even in the absence of LEDGF/p75 by blocking the interaction with the IBD of HRP-2. These results further support the potential of LEDGINs as allosteric integrase inhibitors.

Discovery of Small Molecule HIV-1 Integrase Dimerization Inhibitors

Human immunodeficiency virus-1 integrase (HIV-1 IN) inserts the viral DNA into host cell chromatin in a multistep process. This enzyme exists in equilibrium between monomeric, dimeric, tetrameric and high order oligomeric states. However, monomers of IN are not capable of supporting its catalytic functions and the active form has been shown to be at least a dimer. As a consequence, the development of inhibitors targeting IN dimerization constitutes a promising novel antiviral strategy. In this work, we successfully combined different computational techniques in order to identify small molecule inhibitors of IN dimerization. Additionally, a novel AlphaScreen-based IN dimerization assay was used to evaluate the inhibitory activities of the selected compounds. To the best of our knowledge, this study represents the first successful virtual screening and evaluation of small molecule HIV-1 IN dimerization inhibitors, which may serve as attractive hit compounds for the development of novel anti-HIV.

Development of a Series of 3-hydroxyquinolin-2(1H)-ones As Selective Inhibitors of HIV-1 Reverse Transcriptase Associated RNase H Activity

We report herein the synthesis of a series of 3-hydroxyquinolin-2(1H)-one derivatives. Esters and amide groups were introduced at position 4 of the basis scaffold and some modulations of the benzenic moiety were performed. Most compounds presented selective inhibitory properties in the 10-20 μM range against HIV-1 reverse transcriptase associated ribonuclease H activity, without affecting the integrase and reverse transcriptase DNA polymerase activities. Unfortunately all tested compounds exhibited high cellular cytotoxicity in cell culture which limited their applications as antiviral agents.

Galectin-1 in Melanoma Biology and Related Neo-angiogenesis Processes

Aggressiveness of advanced melanomas relates in part to their marked propensity to develop neoangiogenesis and metastases. Among its numerous pro-cancer roles, galectin (gal)-1 expressed and/or secreted by both cancer and endothelial cells stimulates proliferation and angiogenesis. This study first shows that gal-1 is more highly expressed at both mRNA and protein levels than its congeners in melanomas and particularly in advanced lesions. The roles of gal-1 were further investigated in vivo in the highly proliferating and vascularized pseudometastatic B16F10 mouse melanoma model using stable knockdown B16F10 cells and wild-type versus gal-1 knockout mice, and then in vitro in B16F10 tumoral and lung microvascular cells. Gal-1 depletion in the B16F10 tumor cells but not in the tumor-bearing mice significantly increased melanoma-bearing mice survival. Tumor-derived gal-1 thus seems to have more critical roles than the host-derived one. In fact, gal-1 displays distinct effects on the H-Ras-dependent p53/p21 pathways: in primary lung microvessel endothelial cells, gal-1 seems to be involved in the maintenance of senescent status through the induction of both p53 and p21 while it stimulates B16F10 cancer cell proliferation through a p53/p21 decrease. Altogether, these data point to gal-1 as a potential target to combat melanomas.

Small-molecule Inhibitors of the LEDGF/p75 Binding Site of Integrase Block HIV Replication and Modulate Integrase Multimerization

Targeting the HIV integrase (HIV IN) is a clinically validated approach for designing novel anti-HIV therapies. We have previously described the discovery of a novel class of integration inhibitors, 2-(quinolin-3-yl)acetic acid derivatives, blocking HIV replication at a low micromolar concentration through binding in the LEDGF/p75 binding pocket of HIV integrase, hence referred to as LEDGINs. Here we report the detailed characterization of their mode of action. The design of novel and more potent analogues with nanomolar activity enabled full virological evaluation and a profound mechanistic study. As allosteric inhibitors, LEDGINs bind to the LEDGF/p75 binding pocket in integrase, thereby blocking the interaction with LEDGF/p75 and interfering indirectly with the catalytic activity of integrase. Detailed mechanism-of-action studies reveal that the allosteric mode of inhibition is likely caused by an effect on HIV-1 integrase oligomerization. The multimodal inhibition by LEDGINs results in a block in HIV integration and in a replication deficiency of progeny virus. The allosteric nature of LEDGINs leads to synergy in combination with the clinically approved active site HIV IN strand transfer inhibitor (INSTI) raltegravir, and cross-resistance profiling proves the distinct mode of action of LEDGINs and INSTIs. The allosteric nature of inhibition and compatibility with INSTIs underline an interest in further (clinical) development of LEDGINs.

Quantitative Evaluation of MRI-based Tracking of Ferritin-labeled Endogenous Neural Stem Cell Progeny in Rodent Brain

Endogenous neural stem cells have the potential to facilitate therapy for various neurodegenerative brain disorders. To increase our understanding of neural stem and progenitor cell biology in healthy and diseased brain, methods to label and visualize stem cells and their progeny in vivo are indispensable. Iron oxide particle based cell-labeling approaches enable cell tracking by MRI with high resolution and good soft tissue contrast in the brain. However, in addition to important concerns about unspecific labeling and low labeling efficiency, the dilution effect upon cell division is a major drawback for longitudinal follow-up of highly proliferating neural progenitor cells with MRI. Stable viral vector-mediated marking of endogenous stem cells and their progeny with a reporter gene for MRI could overcome these limitations. We stably and efficiently labeled endogenous neural stem/progenitor cells in the subventricular zone in situ by injecting a lentiviral vector expressing ferritin, a reporter for MRI. We developed an image analysis pipeline to quantify MRI signal changes at the level of the olfactory bulb as a result of migration of ferritin-labeled neuroblasts along the rostral migratory stream. We were able to detect ferritin-labeled endogenous neural stem cell progeny into the olfactory bulb of individual animals with ex vivo MRI at 30 weeks post injection, but could not demonstrate reliable in vivo detection and longitudinal tracking of neuroblast migration to the OB in individual animals. Therefore, although LV-mediated labeling of endogenous neural stem and progenitor cells resulted in efficient and stable ferritin-labeling of stem cell progeny in the OB, even with quantitative image analysis, sensitivity remains a limitation for in vivo applications.

Quad's in It for Antiretroviral Therapy?

Fragment Hopping Approach Directed at Design of HIV IN-LEDGF/p75 Interaction Inhibitors

We recently identified a series of indole derivatives as active inhibitors of IN-LEDGF/p75 interaction through structure-based pharmacophore models generated from the crystal structure of dimeric catalytic core domain (CCD) of HIV-1 IN in complex with the LEDGF integrase binding domain (IBD). In this paper we used the fragment hopping approach to design small molecules able to prevent the IN-LEDGF/p75 interaction. By means of the proposed approach, we designed novel non-peptidyl compounds that mimic the biological function of some IBD residues and in particular the LEDGF hot spot residues Ile365 and Asp366. The biological results confirmed the importance of several structural requirements for the inhibitory effects of this class of compounds.

Phage Display-directed Discovery of LEDGF/p75 Binding Cyclic Peptide Inhibitors of HIV Replication

The interaction between the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) integrase (IN) and its cellular cofactor lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF/p75) is crucial for HIV replication. While recently discovered LEDGINs inhibit HIV-1 replication by occupying the LEDGF/p75 pocket in IN, it remained to be demonstrated whether LEDGF/p75 by itself can be targeted. By phage display we identified cyclic peptides (CPs) as the first LEDGF/p75 ligands that inhibit the LEDGF/p75-IN interaction. The CPs inhibit HIV replication in different cell lines without overt toxicity. In accord with the role of LEDGF/p75 in HIV integration and its inhibition by LEDGINs, CP64, and CP65 block HIV replication primarily by inhibiting the integration step. The CPs retained activity against HIV strains resistant to raltegravir or LEDGINs. Saturation transfer difference (STD) NMR showed residues in CP64 that strongly interact with LEDGF/p75 but not with HIV IN. Mutational analysis identified tryptophan as an important residue responsible for the activity of the peptides. Serial passaging of virus in the presence of CPs did not yield resistant strains. Our work provides proof-of-concept for direct targeting of LEDGF/p75 as novel therapeutic strategy and the CPs thereby serve as scaffold for future development of new HIV therapeutics.

Combinational Therapies for HIV: a Focus on EVG/COBI/FTC/TDF

INTRODUCTION: The co-formulation of elvitegravir/cobicistat/emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (EVG/COBI/FTC/TDF) is a new, investigational, once-daily (q.d.) drug, currently undergoing Phase II and III clinical trials. Next to the nucleotide/nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors FTC and TDF, it contains EVG, the second member of the HIV-1 integrase strand transfer inhibitor class, together with its pharmacokinetic booster COBI. AREAS COVERED: In this article, the authors review EVG/COBI/FTC/TDF, in addition to discussing the single-tablet regimens (STRs) containing EFV/FTC/TDF or RPV/FTC/TDF, and the investigational combination pill containing dolutegravir, lamivudine and abacavir (DTG/3TC/ABC, 572-Trii pill). A Medline review was conducted of Phase II and III trials, as well as a review of abstracts from major HIV and infectious disease conferences from 2010 to 2012, involving EVG/COBI/FTC/TDF. EXPERT OPINION: Next to the combination of EFV/FTC/TDF or RPV/FTC/TDF, the co-formulation of EVG/COBI/FTC/TDF offers a new, q.d., single-tablet alternative in treatment-naïve HIV patients. EVG/COBI/FTC/TDF combines a high efficacy with a good tolerability profile. The effect on the renal function and virologic failure with the development of resistance to two or more compounds present in EVG/COBI/FTC/TDF, requires further monitoring. STRs certainly bring the standard for HIV treatment and drug development to a higher level.

Identification of Residues in the C-terminal Domain of HIV-1 Integrase That Mediate Binding to the Transportin-SR2 Protein

Transportin-SR2 (TRN-SR2 and TNPO3) is a cellular cofactor of HIV replication that has been implicated in the nuclear import of HIV. TRN-SR2 was originally identified in a yeast two-hybrid screen as an interaction partner of HIV integrase (IN) and in two independent siRNA screens as a cofactor of viral replication. We have now studied the interaction of TRN-SR2 and HIV IN in molecular detail and identified the TRN-SR2 interacting regions of IN. A weak interaction with the catalytic core domain (CCD) and a strong interaction with the C-terminal domain (CTD) of IN were detected. By dissecting the catalytic core domain (CCD) of IN into short structural fragments, we identified a peptide (INIP(1), amino acids (170)EHLKTAVQMAVFIHNFKRKGGI(191)) retaining the ability to interact with TRN-SR2. By dissecting the C-terminal domain (CTD) of IN, we could identify two interacting peptides (amino acids (214)QKQITKIQNFRVYYR(228) and (262)RRKVKIIRDYGK(273)) that come together in the CTD tertiary structure to form an exposed antiparallel β-sheet. Through site-specific mutagenesis, we defined the following sets of amino acids in IN as important for the interaction with TRN-SR2: Phe-185/Lys-186/Arg-187/Lys-188 in the CCD and Arg-262/Arg-263/Lys-264 and Lys-266/Arg-269 in the CTD. An HIV-1 strain carrying K266A/R269A in IN was replication-defective due to a block in reverse transcription, confounding the study of nuclear import. Insight into the IN/TRN-SR2 interaction interface is necessary to guide drug discovery efforts targeting the nuclear entry step of replication.

Interaction of the HIV-1 Intasome with Transportin 3 Protein (TNPO3 or TRN-SR2)

Transportin 3 (TNPO3 or TRN-SR2) has been shown to be an important cellular factor for early steps of lentiviral replication. However, separate studies have implicated distinct mechanisms for TNPO3 either through its interaction with HIV-1 integrase or capsid. Here we have carried out a detailed biophysical characterization of TNPO3 and investigated its interactions with viral proteins. Biophysical analyses including circular dichroism, analytical ultracentrifugation, small-angle x-ray scattering, and homology modeling provide insight into TNPO3 architecture and indicate that it is highly structured and exists in a monomer-dimer equilibrium in solution. In vitro biochemical binding assays argued against meaningful direct interaction between TNPO3 and the capsid cores. Instead, TNPO3 effectively bound to the functional intasome but not to naked viral DNA, suggesting that TNPO3 can directly engage the HIV-1 IN tetramer prebound to the cognate DNA. Mass spectrometry-based protein footprinting and site-directed mutagenesis studies have enabled us to map several interacting amino acids in the HIV-1 IN C-terminal domain and the cargo binding domain of TNPO3. Our findings provide important information for future genetic analysis to better understand the role of TNPO3 and its interacting partners for HIV-1 replication.

Cellular Cofactors of Lentiviral Integrase: from Target Validation to Drug Discovery

To accomplish their life cycle, lentiviruses make use of host proteins, the so-called cellular cofactors. Interactions between host cell and viral proteins during early stages of lentiviral infection provide attractive new antiviral targets. The insertion of lentiviral cDNA in a host cell chromosome is a step of no return in the replication cycle, after which the host cell becomes a permanent carrier of the viral genome and a producer of lentiviral progeny. Integration is carried out by integrase (IN), an enzyme playing also an important role during nuclear import. Plenty of cellular cofactors of HIV-1 IN have been proposed. To date, the lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF/p75) is the best studied cofactor of HIV-1 IN. Moreover, small molecules that block the LEDGF/p75-IN interaction have recently been developed for the treatment of HIV infection. The nuclear import factor transportin-SR2 (TRN-SR2) has been proposed as another interactor of HIV IN-mediating nuclear import of the virus. Using both proteins as examples, we will describe approaches to be taken to identify and validate novel cofactors as new antiviral targets. Finally, we will highlight recent advances in the design and the development of small-molecule inhibitors binding to the LEDGF/p75-binding pocket in IN (LEDGINs).

Preliminary Validation of Varicella Zoster Virus Thymidine Kinase As a Novel Reporter Gene for PET

Imaging of gene expression with positron emission tomography (PET) has emerged as a powerful tool for biomedical research during the last decade. The prototypical herpes simplex virus type 1 thymidine kinase (HSV1-TK) PET reporter gene (PRG) is widely used and many other PRGs have also been validated. We investigated varicella zoster virus thymidine kinase (VZV-tk) as new PRG with radiolabeled bicyclic nucleoside analogues (BCNAs) as PET tracers.

A Symmetric Region of the HIV-1 Integrase Dimerization Interface Is Essential for Viral Replication

HIV-1 integrase (IN) is an important target for contemporary antiretroviral drug design research. Historically, efforts at inactivating the enzyme have focused upon blocking its active site. However, it has become apparent that new classes of allosteric inhibitors will be necessary to advance the antiretroviral field in light of the emergence of viral strains resistant to contemporary clinically used IN drugs. In this study we have characterized the importance of a close network of IN residues, distant from the active site, as important for the obligatory multimerization of the enzyme and viral replication as a whole. Specifically, we have determined that the configuration of six residues within a highly symmetrical region at the IN dimerization interface, composed of a four-tiered aromatic interaction flanked by two salt bridges, significantly contributes to proper HIV-1 replication. Additionally, we have utilized a quantitative luminescence assay to examine IN oligomerization and have determined that there is a very low tolerance for amino acid substitutions along this region. Even conservative residue substitutions negatively impacted IN multimerization, resulting in an inactive viral enzyme and a non-replicative virus. We have shown that there is a very low tolerance for amino acid variation at the symmetrical dimeric interface region characterized in this study, and therefore drugs designed to target the amino acid network detailed here could be expected to yield a significantly reduced number of drug-resistant escape mutations compared to contemporary clinically-evaluated antiretrovirals.

HRP-2 Determines HIV-1 Integration Site Selection in LEDGF/p75 Depleted Cells

ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Lens epithelium--derived growth factor (LEDGF/p75) is a cellular co-factor of HIV-1 integrase (IN) that tethers the viral pre-integration complex to the host cell chromatin and determines the genome wide integration site distribution pattern of HIV-1. Recently, we demonstrated that HIV-1 replication was reduced in LEDGF/p75 knockout (KO) cells. LEDGF/p75 KO significantly altered the integration site preference of HIV-1, but the pattern remained distinct from a computationally generated matched random control set (MRC), suggesting the presence of an alternative tethering factor. We previously identified Hepatoma-derived growth factor related protein 2 (HRP-2) as a factor mediating LEDGF/p75-independent HIV-1 replication. However, the role of HRP-2 in HIV-1 integration site selection was not addressed. FINDINGS: We studied the HIV-1 integration site distribution in the presence and absence of LEDGF/p75 and/or HRP-2, and in LEDGF/p75-depleted cells that overexpress HRP-2. We show that HRP-2 functions as a co-factor of HIV-1 IN in LEDGF/p75-depleted cells. Endogenous HRP-2 only weakly supported HIV-1 replication in LEDGF/p75 depleted cells. However, HRP-2 overexpression rescued HIV-1 replication and restored integration in RefSeq genes to wild-type T levels. Additional HRP-2 KD in LEDGF/p75-depleted cells reduces integration frequency in transcription units and shifts the integration distribution towards random. CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrate that HRP-2 overexpression can compensate for the absence of LEDGF/p75 and indicate that the residual bias in integration targeting observed in the absence of LEDGF/p75 can be ascribed to HRP-2. Knockdown of HRP-2 upon LEDGF/p75 depletion results in a more random HIV-1 integration pattern. These data therefore reinforce the understanding that LEDGF/p75 is the dominant HIV-1 IN co-factor.

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