We describe a transcription-based assay system to screen for antiviral drugs in vivo. The system consists of two transcription units, a cytomegalovirus promoter driving a reporter gene physically linked to an HIV-1 promoter oriented in the opposite direction. Based on the arrangement of the transcription units, enhanced HIV-1 promoter activity in the presence of the viral transactivating Tat protein downregulates reporter gene expression initiated from the CMV promoter. Inhibitors of HIV-1 transcription relieve the suppression and are identified by an increase in reporter gene expression. This positive selection system allows discrimination between drugs that nonspecifically block cellular functions by cytotoxicity and molecules that specifically repress HIV-1 promoter activity.
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Rosario, M., Stephans, J., Zakel, J. et al. Positive selection system to screen for inhibitors of human immunodeficiency virus-1 transcription. Nat Biotechnol 14, 1592–1596 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt1196-1592
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