Stochastic gene expression in a lentiviral positive-feedback loop: HIV-1 Tat fluctuations drive phenotypic diversity.

Date Published:

2005 Jul 29




HIV-1 Tat transactivation is vital for completion of the viral life cycle and has been implicated in determining proviral latency. We present an extensive experimental/computational study of an HIV-1 model vector (LTR-GFP-IRES-Tat) and show that stochastic fluctuations in Tat influence the viral latency decision. Low GFP/Tat expression was found to generate bifurcating phenotypes with clonal populations derived from single proviral integrations simultaneously exhibiting very high and near zero GFP expression. Although phenotypic bifurcation (PheB) was correlated with distinct genomic integration patterns, neither these patterns nor other extrinsic cellular factors (cell cycle/size, aneuploidy, chromatin silencing, etc.) explained PheB. Stochastic computational modeling successfully accounted for PheB and correctly predicted the dynamics of a Tat mutant that were subsequently confirmed by experiment. Thus, Tat stochastics appear sufficient to generate PheB (and potentially proviral latency), illustrating the importance of stochastic fluctuations in gene expression in a mammalian system.



Alternate Journal: