Inconsistent Reversal of HIV-1 Latency Ex Vivo by Antigens of HIV-1, CMV, and Other Infectious Agents
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Inconsistent Reversal of HIV-1 Latency Ex Vivo by Antigens of HIV-1, CMV, and Other Infectious Agents

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Abstract BackgroundA reservoir of replication-competent but latent virus is the main obstacle to a cure for HIV-infection. Much of this reservoir resides in memory CD4 T cells. We hypothesized that these cells can be reactivated with antigens from HIV and other common pathogens to reverse latency. ResultsWe obtained mononuclear cells from the peripheral blood of antiretroviral-treated patients with suppressed viremia. We tested pools of peptides and proteins derived from HIV and from other pathogens including CMV for their ability to reverse latency ex vivo by activation of memory responses. We assessed activation of the CD4 T cells by measuring the up-regulation of cell-surface CD69. We assessed HIV-expression using two assays: a real-time PCR assay for virion-associated viral RNA and a droplet digital PCR assay for cell-associated, multiply spliced viral mRNA. Reversal of latency occurred in a minority of cells from some participants, but no single antigen induced HIV-expression ex vivo consistently. When reversal of latency was induced by a specific peptide pool or protein, the extent was proportionally greater than that of T cell activation. ConclusionsIn this group of patients in whom antiretroviral therapy was started during chronic infection, the latent reservoir does not appear to consistently reside in CD4 T cells of a predominant antigen-specificity. Peptide-antigens reversed HIV-latency ex vivo with modest and variable activity. When latency was reversed by specific peptides or proteins, it was proportionally greater than the extent of T cell activation, suggesting partial enrichment of the latent reservoir in cells of specific antigen-reactivity.

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