Evaluation of HIV-1 latency reversal and antibody-dependent viral clearance by quantification of singly spliced HIV-1 vpu/ env mRNA

Hongbo Gao, Ays E.N. Ozantürk, Qiankun Wang, Gray H. Harlan, Aaron J. Schmitz, Rachel M. Presti, Kai Deng, Liang Shanb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

The latent reservoir of HIV-1 is a major barrier for viral eradication. Potent HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNabs) have been used to prevent and treat HIV-1 infections in animal models and clinical trials. Combination of bNabs and latency-reversing agents (LRAs) is considered a promising approach for HIV-1 eradication. PCR-based assays that can rapidly and specifically measure singly spliced HIV-1 vpu/env mRNA are needed to evaluate the induction of the viral envelope production at the transcription level and bNab-mediated reservoir clearance. Here, we reported a PCR-based method to accurately quantify the production of intracellular HIV-1 vpu/env mRNA. With the vpu/env assay, we determined the LRA combinations that could effectively induce vpu/env mRNA production in CD41 T cells from antiretroviral therapy (ART)-treated individuals. None of the tested LRAs were effective alone. A comparison between the quantitative viral outgrowth assay (Q-VOA) and the vpu/env assay showed that vpu/env mRNA production was closely associated with the reactivation of replication-competent HIV-1, suggesting that vpu/env mRNA was mainly produced by intact viruses. Finally, antibody-mediated killing in HIV-1-infected humanized mice demonstrated that the vpu/env assay could be used to measure the reduction of infected cells in tissues and was more accurate than the commonly used gag-based PCR assay, which measures unspliced viral genomic RNA. In conclusion, the vpu/env assay allows convenient and accurate assessment of HIV-1 latency reversal and bNab-mediated therapeutic strategies. IMPORTANCE HIV-1 persists in individuals on antiretroviral therapy (ART) due to the long-lived cellular reservoirs that contain dormant viruses. Recent discoveries of HIV-1-specific broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNabs) targeting HIV-1 Env protein rekindled the interest in antibody-mediated elimination of latent HIV-1. Latency-reversing agents (LRAs) together with HIV-1 bNabs is a possible strategy to clear residual viral reservoirs, which makes the evaluation of HIV-1 Env expression upon LRA treatment critical. We developed a PCR-based assay to quantify the production of intracellular HIV-1 vpu/env mRNA. Using patient CD41 T cells, we found that induction of HIV-1 vpu/env mRNA required a combination of different LRAs. Using in vitro, ex vivo, and humanized mouse models, we showed that the vpu/env assay could be used to measure antibody efficacy in clearing HIV-1 infection. These results suggest that the vpu/env assay can accurately evaluate HIV-1 reactivation and bNab-based therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02124
JournalJournal of virology
Volume95
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Keywords

  • Antibody-dependent killing
  • HIV reservoirs
  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Latency reversal
  • Singly spliced vpu/env mRNA

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