Latently human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected memory CD4+ T cells represent the major obstacle to eradicating HIV from infected patients. Antigens, T-cell receptor (TCR) ligation, and phorbol esters can reactivate HIV from latency in a protein kinase C (PKC)-dependent manner; however, it is unknown which specific PKC isoforms are required for this effect. We demonstrate that constitutively active (CA) forms of both PKCθ, PKCθA148E, and PKCα, PKCαA25E, induce HIV long terminal repeat (LTR)-dependent transcription in Jurkat and primary human CD4+ T cells and that both PKCθA148E and PKCαA25E cause HIV reactivation in J1.1 T cells. Suppression of both PKCα and PKCθ with short hairpinned (sh) RNA inhibited CD3/CD28-induced HIV LTR-dependent transcription and HIV reactivation in J1.1 T cells. Both prostratin and phorbol myristate 13-acetate induced HIV LTR-dependent transcription and HIV reactivation in J1.1 T cells that was blocked by shRNA against either PKCα or PKCθ. Since suppression of PKCα and PKCθ together has no greater inhibitory effect on HIV reactivation than inhibition of PKCα alone, our data confirm that PKCα and PKCθ act in sequence. The requirement for PKCα and PKCθ for prostratin-induced HIV reactivation and the ability of selective PKCα or PKCθ agonists to induce HIV transcription indicate that these PKC isoforms are important targets for therapeutic drug design.
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