BACKGROUND: MiRNAs and other small noncoding RNAs (sncRNAs) are key players in post-transcriptional gene regulation. HIV-1 derived small noncoding RNAs (sncRNAs) have been described in HIV-1 infected cells, but their biological functions still remain to be elucidated. Here, we approached the question whether viral sncRNAs may play a role in the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway or whether viral mRNAs are targeted by cellular miRNAs in human monocyte derived macrophages (MDM).
METHODS: The incorporation of viral sncRNAs and/or their target RNAs into RNA-induced silencing complex was investigated using photoactivatable ribonucleoside-induced cross-linking and immunoprecipitation (PAR-CLIP) as well as high-throughput sequencing of RNA isolated by cross-linking immunoprecipitation (HITS-CLIP), which capture Argonaute2-bound miRNAs and their target RNAs. HIV-1 infected monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) were chosen as target cells, as they have previously been shown to express HIV-1 sncRNAs. In addition, we applied small RNA deep sequencing to study differential cellular miRNA expression in HIV-1 infected versus non-infected MDMs.
RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: PAR-CLIP and HITS-CLIP data demonstrated the absence of HIV-1 RNAs in Ago2-RISC, although the presence of a multitude of HIV-1 sncRNAs in HIV-1 infected MDMs was confirmed by small RNA sequencing. Small RNA sequencing revealed that 1.4% of all sncRNAs were of HIV-1 origin. However, neither HIV-1 derived sncRNAs nor putative HIV-1 target sequences incorporated into Ago2-RISC were identified suggesting that HIV-1 sncRNAs are not involved in the canonical RNAi pathway nor is HIV-1 targeted by this pathway in HIV-1 infected macrophages.