Analysis of the Contribution of 6-mer Seed Toxicity to HIV-1Induced Cytopathicity

Aparajitha Vaidyanathan, Harry Eugene Taylor*, Thomas J Hope, Richard Thomas D'Aquila, Elizabeth T. Bartom, Judd Franklin Hultquist, Marcus Ernst Peter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


HIV-1 (HIV) infects CD41 T cells, the gradual depletion of which can lead to AIDS in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART). Some cells, however, survive HIV infection and persist as part of the latently infected reservoir that causes recurrent viremia after ART cessation. Improved understanding of the mechanisms of HIV-mediated cell death could lead to a way to clear the latent reservoir. Death induced by survival gene elimination (DISE), an RNA interference (RNAi)-based mechanism, kills cells through short RNAs (sRNAs) with toxic 6-mer seeds (positions 2 to 7 of sRNA). These toxic seeds target the 39 untranslated region (UTR) of mRNAs, decreasing the expression of hundreds of genes critical for cell survival. In most cells under normal conditions, highly expressed cell-encoded nontoxic microRNAs (miRNAs) block access of toxic sRNAs to the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) that mediates RNAi, promoting cell survival. HIV has been shown to inhibit the biogenesis of host miRNAs in multiple ways. We now report that HIV infection of cells deficient in miRNA expression or function results in enhanced RISC loading of an HIV-encoded miRNA HIV-miR-TAR-3p, which can kill cells by DISE through a noncanonical (positions 3 to 8) 6-mer seed. In addition, cellular RISC-bound sRNAs shift to lower seed viability. This also occurs after latent HIV provirus reactivation in J-Lat cells, suggesting independence of permissiveness of cells to viral infection. More precise targeting of the balance between protective and cytotoxic sRNAs could provide new avenues to explore novel cell death mechanisms that could be used to kill latent HIV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • AIDS
  • RISC
  • RNA toxicity
  • RNAi
  • cell death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Virology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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