Human immune deficiency virus (HIV) infection of microglial cells in the brain leads to chronic neuroinflammation, which is antecedent to the development of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) in the majority of patients. Productively HIV infected microglia release multiple neurotoxins including proinflammatory cytokines and HIV proteins such as envelope glycoprotein (gp120) and transactivator of transcription (Tat). However, powerful counteracting silencing mechanisms in microglial cells result in the rapid shutdown of HIV expression to limit neuronal damage. Here we investigated whether the Nerve Growth Factor IB-like nuclear receptor Nurr1 (NR4A2), which is a repressor of inflammation in the brain, acts to directly restrict HIV expression. HIV silencing was substantially enhanced by Nurr1 agonists in both immortalized human microglial cells (hµglia) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC)-derived human microglial cells (iMG). Overexpression of Nurr1 led to viral suppression, whereas by contrast, knock down (KD) of endogenous Nurr1 blocked HIV silencing. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays showed that Nurr1 mediates recruitment of the CoREST/HDAC1/G9a/EZH2 transcription repressor complex to HIV promoter resulting in epigenetic silencing of active HIV. Transcriptomic studies demonstrated that in addition to repressing HIV transcription, Nurr1 also downregulated numerous cellular genes involved in inflammation, cell cycle, and metabolism, thus promoting HIV latency and microglial homoeostasis. Thus, Nurr1 plays a pivotal role in modulating the cycles of proviral reactivation by cytokines and potentiating the proviral transcriptional shutdown. These data highlight the therapeutic potential of Nurr1 agonists for inducing HIV silencing and microglial homeostasis and amelioration of the neuroinflammation associated with HAND.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.11.16.468784