Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

HIV- 1: To Splice Or Not To Splice, That Is THE Question

Version 1 : Received: 5 January 2021 / Approved: 6 January 2021 / Online: 6 January 2021 (11:49:59 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Emery, A.; Swanstrom, R. HIV-1: To Splice or Not to Splice, That Is the Question. Viruses 2021, 13, 181. Emery, A.; Swanstrom, R. HIV-1: To Splice or Not to Splice, That Is the Question. Viruses 2021, 13, 181.


HIV-1 transcribes only one kind of transcript – the full length genomic RNA. To make the mRNA transcripts for the accessory proteins Tat and Rev, the genomic RNA must completely splice. The mRNA transcripts for Vif, Vpr, and Env must splice but not completely. Genomic RNA (which also functions as mRNA for the Gag and Gag/Pro/Pol precursor polyproteins) must not splice at all. HIV-1 can tolerate a surprising range in the relative abundance of individual transcript types, and a surprising amount of aberrant and even odd splicing; however, it must not over-splice, which results in the loss of full length genomic RNA and has a dramatic fitness cost. Cells typically do not tolerate unspliced/incompletely spliced transcripts, so HIV-1 has to circumvent this cell policing mechanism to allow some splicing while suppressing most. Splicing is controlled by RNA secondary structure, cis-acting regulatory sequences which bind splicing factors, and the viral protein Rev. There is still much work to be done to clarify the combinatorial effects of these splicing regulators. These control mechanisms represent attractive targets to induce over-splicing as an antiviral strategy. Finally, splicing has been implicated in latency, but to date there is little supporting evidence for such a mechanism. In this review we apply what is known of cellular splicing to understand splicing in HIV-1, and also present data from our newer and more sensitive deep sequencing assays quantifying the different HIV-1 transcript types.


HIV-1; HIV-1 splicing; HIV-1 oversplicing; HIV-1 latency


Biology and Life Sciences, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

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