Background: The persistence of HIV-1 in reservoir cells is one of the major obstacles to eradicating the virus in infected individuals receiving combination antiretroviral therapy (ART). HIV-1 persists in infected cells as a stable integrated genome and more labile unintegrated DNA (uDNA), which includes linear, 1-LTR and 2-LTR circular DNA. 2-LTR circle DNA, although less abundant, is considered a surrogate marker of recent infection events and is currently used instead of the other unintegrated species as a diagnostic tool. This pilot study aimed to investigate how to best achieve the measurement of uDNA. Methods: A comparative analysis of two qPCR-based methods (U-assay and 2-LTR assay) was performed on the blood of 12 ART-naïve, 14 viremic and 29 aviremic On-ART patients and 20 untreated spontaneous controllers (HIC), sampled at a single time point. Results: The U-assay, which quantified all unintegrated DNA species, showed greater sensitivity than the 2-LTR assay (up to 75%, p < 0.0001), especially in viremic subjects, in whom other forms, in addition to 2-LTR circles, may also accumulate due to active viral replication. Indeed, in aviremic On-ART samples, the U-assay unexpectedly measured uDNA in a higher proportion of samples (76%, 22/29) than the 2-LTR assay (41%, 12/29), (p = 0.0164). A trend towards lower uDNA levels was observed in aviremic vs viremic On-ART patients, reaching significance when we combined aviremic On-ART and HIC (controllers) vs Off-ART and viremic On-ART subjects (non-controllers) (p = 0.0003), whereas 2-LTR circle levels remained constant (p ≥ 0.2174). These data were supported by the high correlation found between uDNA and total DNA (r = 0.69, p < 0.001). Conclusions: The great advantage of the U-assay is that, unlike the 2-LTR assay, it allows the accurate evaluation of the totality of uDNA that can still be measured even during successful ART when plasma viremia is below the cut-off of common clinical tests (< 50 copies/mL) and 2-LTR circles are more likely to be under the quantification limit. UDNA measurement in blood cells may be used as a biomarker to reveal a so far hidden or underestimated viral reservoir. The potential clinical relevance of uDNA quantification may lead to improvements in diagnostic methods to support clinical strategies.

A comparative analysis of unintegrated HIV-1 DNA measurement as a potential biomarker of the cellular reservoir in the blood of patients controlling and non-controlling viral replication

Francesco Barchiesi
Conceptualization
;
2020

Abstract

Background: The persistence of HIV-1 in reservoir cells is one of the major obstacles to eradicating the virus in infected individuals receiving combination antiretroviral therapy (ART). HIV-1 persists in infected cells as a stable integrated genome and more labile unintegrated DNA (uDNA), which includes linear, 1-LTR and 2-LTR circular DNA. 2-LTR circle DNA, although less abundant, is considered a surrogate marker of recent infection events and is currently used instead of the other unintegrated species as a diagnostic tool. This pilot study aimed to investigate how to best achieve the measurement of uDNA. Methods: A comparative analysis of two qPCR-based methods (U-assay and 2-LTR assay) was performed on the blood of 12 ART-naïve, 14 viremic and 29 aviremic On-ART patients and 20 untreated spontaneous controllers (HIC), sampled at a single time point. Results: The U-assay, which quantified all unintegrated DNA species, showed greater sensitivity than the 2-LTR assay (up to 75%, p < 0.0001), especially in viremic subjects, in whom other forms, in addition to 2-LTR circles, may also accumulate due to active viral replication. Indeed, in aviremic On-ART samples, the U-assay unexpectedly measured uDNA in a higher proportion of samples (76%, 22/29) than the 2-LTR assay (41%, 12/29), (p = 0.0164). A trend towards lower uDNA levels was observed in aviremic vs viremic On-ART patients, reaching significance when we combined aviremic On-ART and HIC (controllers) vs Off-ART and viremic On-ART subjects (non-controllers) (p = 0.0003), whereas 2-LTR circle levels remained constant (p ≥ 0.2174). These data were supported by the high correlation found between uDNA and total DNA (r = 0.69, p < 0.001). Conclusions: The great advantage of the U-assay is that, unlike the 2-LTR assay, it allows the accurate evaluation of the totality of uDNA that can still be measured even during successful ART when plasma viremia is below the cut-off of common clinical tests (< 50 copies/mL) and 2-LTR circles are more likely to be under the quantification limit. UDNA measurement in blood cells may be used as a biomarker to reveal a so far hidden or underestimated viral reservoir. The potential clinical relevance of uDNA quantification may lead to improvements in diagnostic methods to support clinical strategies.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11566/289958
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