HIV-1 Tropism Testing in Subjects Achieving Undetectable HIV-1 RNA: Diagnostic Accuracy, Viral Evolution and Compartmentalization

Christian Pou, Francisco M. Codoñer, Alexander Thielen, Rocío Bellido, Susana Pérez-Álvarez, Cecilia Cabrera, Judith Dalmau, Marta Curriu, Yolanda Lie, Marc Noguera-Julian, Jordi Puig, Javier Martínez-Picado, Julià Blanco, Eoin Coakley, Martin Däumer, Bonaventura Clotet, Roger Paredes

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Background:Technically, HIV-1 tropism can be evaluated in plasma or peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). However, only tropism testing of plasma HIV-1 has been validated as a tool to predict virological response to CCR5 antagonists in clinical trials. The preferable tropism testing strategy in subjects with undetectable HIV-1 viremia, in whom plasma tropism testing is not feasible, remains uncertain.Methods & Results:We designed a proof-of-concept study including 30 chronically HIV-1-infected individuals who achieved HIV-1 RNA <50 copies/mL during at least 2 years after first-line ART initiation. First, we determined the diagnostic accuracy of 454 and population sequencing of gp120 V3-loops in plasma and PBMCs, as well as of MT-2 assays before ART initiation. The Enhanced Sensitivity Trofile Assay (ESTA) was used as the technical reference standard. 454 sequencing of plasma viruses provided the highest agreement with ESTA. The accuracy of 454 sequencing decreased in PBMCs due to reduced specificity. Population sequencing in plasma and PBMCs was slightly less accurate than plasma 454 sequencing, being less sensitive but more specific. MT-2 assays had low sensitivity but 100% specificity. Then, we used optimized 454 sequence data to investigate viral evolution in PBMCs during viremia suppression and only found evolution of R5 viruses in one subject. No de novo CXCR4-using HIV-1 production was observed over time. Finally, Slatkin-Maddison tests suggested that plasma and cell-associated V3 forms were sometimes compartmentalized.Conclusions:The absence of tropism shifts during viremia suppression suggests that, when available, testing of stored plasma samples is generally safe and informative, provided that HIV-1 suppression is maintained. Tropism testing in PBMCs may not necessarily produce equivalent biological results to plasma, because the structure of viral populations and the diagnostic performance of tropism assays may sometimes vary between compartments. Thereby, proviral DNA tropism testing should be specifically validated in clinical trials before it can be applied to routine clinical decision-making. © 2013 Pou et al.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere67085
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013


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