Cross-clade ultrasensitive PCR-based assays to measure HIV persistence in large-cohort studies

Claire Vandergeeten, Rémi Fromentin, Esther Merlini, Mariam B. Lawani, Sandrina DaFonseca, Wendy Bakeman, Amanda McNulty, Moti Ramgopal, Nelson Michael, Jerome H. Kim, Jintanat Ananworanich, Nicolas Chomont*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

176 Scopus citations


A small pool of infected cells persists in HIV-infected individuals receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). Here, we developed ultrasensitive assays to precisely measure the frequency of cells harboring total HIV DNA, integrated HIV DNA, and two long terminal repeat (2-LTR) circles. These assays are performed on cell lysates, which circumvents the labor-intensive step of DNA extraction, and rely on the coquantification of each HIV molecular form together with CD3 gene sequences to precisely measure cell input. Using primary isolates from HIV subtypes A, B, C, D, and CRF01_A/E, we demonstrate that these assays can efficiently quantify low target copy numbers from diverse HIV subtypes. We further used these assays to measure total HIV DNA, integrated HIV DNA, and 2-LTR circles in CD4+ T cells from HIV-infected subjects infected with subtype B. All samples obtained from ART-naive subjects were positive for the three HIV molecular forms (n=15). Total HIV DNA, integrated HIV DNA, and 2-LTR circles were detected in, respectively, 100%, 94%, and 77% of the samples from individuals in which HIV was suppressed by ART. Higher levels of total HIV DNA and 2-LTR circles were detected in untreated subjects than individuals on ART (P = 0.0003 and P = 0.0004, respectively), while the frequency of CD4+ T cells harboring integrated HIV DNA did not differ between the two groups. These results demonstrate that these novel assays have the ability to quantify very low levels of HIV DNA of multiple HIV subtypes without the need for nucleic acid extraction, making them well suited for the monitoring of viral persistence in large populations of HIV-infected individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12385-12396
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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