HIV-1 Tat is essential for HIV-1 replication and plays an important role in latent HIV-1 infection, HIV-1 associated neurological complication, and other HIV-1 comorbidities. Secreted from HIV-1 infected or transfected cells, Tat can be up-taken into cells by receptor-mediated endocytosis and internalized into endolysosomes. To reach nucleus where it can facilitate HIV-1 viral replication, exogenous Tat has to escape the degradation by endolysosomes. Because of findings that endolysosome de-acidification with, for example, the weak-base anti-malarial drug chloroquine prevents exogenous Tat degradation and enhances the amount of Tat available to activate HIV-1 LTR, we hypothesize that acidifying endolysosomes may enhance Tat degradation in endolysosomes and restrict LTR transactivation. Here, we determined the involvement of endolysosome-resident transient receptor potential mucolipin 1 channel (TRPML1) and the big conductance Ca2+-activated potassium (BK) channel in regulating endolysosome pH, as well as Tat-mediated HIV-1 LTR transactivation in U87MG cells stably integrated with HIV-1 LTR luciferase reporter. Activating TRPML1 channels with ML-SA1 acidified endolysosomes and restricted Tat-mediated HIV-1 LTR transactivation. These effects of ML-SA1 appeared to be mediated through activation of BK channels, because the effects of ML-SA1 on Tat-mediated HIV-1 LTR transactivation were blocked using pharmacological inhibitors or shRNA knock-down of BK channels. On the other hand, activating TRPML1 and BK channels enhanced cellular degradation of exogenous Tat. These results suggest that acidifying endolysosomes by activating TRPML1 or BK channels may provide therapeutic benefit against latent HIV-1 infection, HIV-1 associated neurocognitive disorders, and other HIV-1 comorbidities.
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