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The histone deacetylase inhibitor SAHA simultaneously reactivates HIV-1 from latency and up-regulates NKG2D ligands sensitizing for natural killer cell cytotoxicity.


In pilot HIV-1 eradication studies, patients' immune responses were ineffective at killing viral reservoirs reactivated through latency reversing agents (LRAs) like suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA). We hypothesized that T cells harboring reactivated HIV-1 express MIC and ULBP ligands for the activating NKG2D receptor of natural killer (NK) cells. Here, we demonstrated that MICA/B and ULBP2 are induced by SAHA on primary T cells harboring reactivated virus. Using latently HIV-1-infected J-Lat 6.3/8.4/9.2 and J1.1 cell lines, we showed that SAHA reverts latency and, simultaneously, up-regulates MICA/B and ULBP2 acting at the transcriptional level and through ATR activation, thus sensitizing T cells with reactivated virus to NKG2D-mediated killing by NK cells. Moreover, IL-2 and IL-15 potently boosted NKG2D expression and cytotoxicity of NK cells against SAHA-reactivated p24(+) target cells. Therefore, immunotherapy with cytokines enhancing NKG2D-mediated NK-cell cytotoxicity combined with administration of LRAs up-modulating NKG2D ligands, represents a promising approach towards HIV-1 eradication.