During the early stage of HIV-1 replication, integrase (IN) plays important roles at several steps, including reverse transcription, viral DNA nuclear import, targeting viral DNA to host chromatin and integration. Previous studies have demonstrated that HIV-1 IN interacts with a cellular Lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF/p75) and that this viral/cellular interaction plays an important role for tethering HIV-1 preintegration complexes (PICs) to transcriptionally active units of host chromatin. Meanwhile, other studies have revealed that the efficient knockdown and/or knockout of LEDGF/p75 could not abolish HIV infection, suggesting a LEDGF/p75-independent action of IN for viral DNA chromatin targeting and integration, even though the underlying mechanism(s) is not fully understood.
In this study, we performed site-directed mutagenic analysis at the C-terminal region of the IN catalytic core domain responsible for IN/chromatin binding and IN/LEDGF/p75 interaction. The results showed that the IN mutations H171A, L172A and EH170,1AA, located in the loop region 170EHLK173 between the α4 and α5 helices of IN, severely impaired the interaction with LEDGF/p75 but were still able to bind chromatin. In addition, our combined knockdown approach for LEDGF/p75 also failed to dissociate IN from chromatin. This suggests that IN has a LEDGF/p75-independent determinant for host chromatin binding. Furthermore, a single-round HIV-1 replication assay showed that the viruses harboring IN mutants capable of LEDGF/p75-independent chromatin binding still sustained a low level of infection, while the chromatin-binding defective mutant was non-infectious.
All of these data indicate that, even though the presence of LEDGF/p75 is important for a productive HIV-1 replication, IN has the ability to bind chromatin in a LEDGF/p75-independent manner and sustains a low level of HIV-1 infection. Hence, it is interesting to define the mechanism(s) underlying IN-mediated LEDGF/p75-independent chromatin targeting, and further studies in this regard will help for a better understanding of the molecular mechanism of chromatin targeting by IN during HIV-1 infection.||