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PLoS Pathog. 2016 Mar 3;12(3):e1005472. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1005472. eCollection 2016 Mar.

Integrated and Total HIV-1 DNA Predict Ex Vivo Viral Outgrowth.

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HIV Translational Research Unit (HTRU), Department of Internal Medicine, Ghent University and Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium.
Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Infectious Disease Division, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Infectious Disease Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.


The persistence of a reservoir of latently infected CD4 T cells remains one of the major obstacles to cure HIV. Numerous strategies are being explored to eliminate this reservoir. To translate these efforts into clinical trials, there is a strong need for validated biomarkers that can monitor the reservoir over time in vivo. A comprehensive study was designed to evaluate and compare potential HIV-1 reservoir biomarkers. A cohort of 25 patients, treated with suppressive antiretroviral therapy was sampled at three time points, with median of 2.5 years (IQR: 2.4-2.6) between time point 1 and 2; and median of 31 days (IQR: 28-36) between time point 2 and 3. Patients were median of 6 years (IQR: 3-12) on ART, and plasma viral load (<50 copies/ml) was suppressed for median of 4 years (IQR: 2-8). Total HIV-1 DNA, unspliced (us) and multiply spliced HIV-1 RNA, and 2LTR circles were quantified by digital PCR in peripheral blood, at 3 time points. At the second time point, a viral outgrowth assay (VOA) was performed, and integrated HIV-1 DNA and relative mRNA expression levels of HIV-1 restriction factors were quantified. No significant change was found for long- and short-term dynamics of all HIV-1 markers tested in peripheral blood. Integrated HIV-1 DNA was associated with total HIV-1 DNA (p<0.001, R² = 0.85), us HIV-1 RNA (p = 0.029, R² = 0.40), and VOA (p = 0.041, R2 = 0.44). Replication-competent virus was detected in 80% of patients by the VOA and it correlated with total HIV-1 DNA (p = 0.039, R² = 0.54). The mean quantification difference between Alu-PCR and VOA was 2.88 log10, and 2.23 log10 between total HIV-1 DNA and VOA. The levels of usHIV-1 RNA were inversely correlated with mRNA levels of several HIV-1 restriction factors (TRIM5α, SAMHD1, MX2, SLFN11, pSIP1). Our study reveals important correlations between the viral outgrowth and total and integrated HIV-1 DNA measures, suggesting that the total pool of HIV-1 DNA may predict the size of the replication-competent virus in ART suppressed patients.

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