Next-generation sequencing of HIV-1 single genome amplicons

Gustavo H. Kijak, Eric Sanders-Buell, Phuc Pham, Elizabeth A. Harbolick, Celina Oropeza, Anne Marie O'Sullivan, Meera Bose, Charmagne G. Beckett, Mark Milazzo, Merlin L. Robb, Sheila A. Peel, Paul T. Scott, Nelson L. Michael, Adam W. Armstrong, Jerome H. Kim, David M. Brett-Major, Sodsai Tovanabutra*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The analysis of HIV-1 sequences has helped understand the viral molecular epidemiology, monitor the development of antiretroviral drug resistance, and design candidate vaccines. The introduction of single genome amplification (SGA) has been a major advancement in the field, allowing for the characterization of multiple sequences per patient while preserving linkage among polymorphisms in the same viral genome copy. Sequencing of SGA amplicons is performed by capillary Sanger sequencing, which presents low throughput, requires a high amount of template, and is highly sensitive to template/primer mismatching. In order to meet the increasing demand for HIV-1 SGA amplicon sequencing, we have developed a platform based on benchtop next-generation sequencing (NGS) (IonTorrent) accompanied by a bioinformatics pipeline capable of running on computer resources commonly available at research laboratories. During assay validation, the NGS-based sequencing of 10 HIV-1 env SGA amplicons was fully concordant with Sanger sequencing. The field test was conducted on plasma samples from 10 US Navy and Marine service members with recent HIV-1 infection (sampling interval: 2005–2010; plasma viral load: 5,884–194,984 copies/ml). The NGS analysis of 101 SGA amplicons (median: 10 amplicons/individual) showed within-individual viral sequence profiles expected in individuals at this disease stage, including individuals with highly homogeneous quasispecies, individuals with two highly homogeneous viral lineages, and individuals with heterogeneous viral populations. In a scalability assessment using the Ion Chef automated system, 41/43 tested env SGA amplicons (95%) multiplexed on a single Ion 318 chip showed consistent gene-wide coverage >50×. With lower sample requirements and higher throughput, this approach is suitable to support the increasing demand for high-quality and cost-effective HIV-1 sequences in fields such as molecular epidemiology, and development of preventive and therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100080
JournalBiomolecular Detection and Quantification
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Bioinformatics
  • HIV-1
  • IonTorrent
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Single genome amplification


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