Relationship between Measures of HIV Reactivation and Decline of the Latent Reservoir under Latency-Reversing Agents

Janka Petravic, Thomas A Rasmussen, Sharon R Lewin, Stephen J Kent, Miles P Davenport
Journal of Virology 2017 May 1, 91 (9)
Antiretroviral-free HIV remission requires substantial reduction of the number of latently infected cells and enhanced immune control of viremia. Latency-reversing agents (LRAs) aim to eliminate latently infected cells by increasing the rate of reactivation of HIV transcription, which exposes these cells to killing by the immune system. As LRAs are explored in clinical trials, it becomes increasingly important to assess the effect of an increased HIV reactivation rate on the decline of latently infected cells and to estimate LRA efficacy in increasing virus reactivation. However, whether the extent of HIV reactivation is a good predictor of the rate of decline of the number of latently infected cells is dependent on a number of factors. Our modeling shows that the mechanisms of maintenance and clearance of the reservoir, the life span of cells with reactivated HIV, and other factors may significantly impact the relationship between measures of HIV reactivation and the decline in the number of latently infected cells. The usual measures of HIV reactivation are the increase in cell-associated HIV RNA (CA RNA) and/or plasma HIV RNA soon after administration. We analyze two recent studies where CA RNA was used to estimate the impact of two novel LRAs, panobinostat and romidepsin. Both drugs increased the CA RNA level 3- to 4-fold in clinical trials. However, cells with panobinostat-reactivated HIV appeared long-lived (half-life > 1 month), suggesting that the HIV reactivation rate increased by approximately 8%. With romidepsin, the life span of cells that reactivated HIV was short (2 days), suggesting that the HIV reactivation rate may have doubled under treatment. IMPORTANCE Long-lived latently infected cells that persist on antiretroviral treatment (ART) are thought to be the source of viral rebound soon after ART interruption. The elimination of latently infected cells is an important step in achieving antiretroviral-free HIV remission. Latency-reversing agents (LRAs) aim to activate HIV expression in latently infected cells, which could lead to their death. Here, we discuss the possible impact of the LRAs on the reduction of the number of latently infected cells, depending on the mechanisms of their loss and self-renewal and on the life span of the cells that have HIV transcription activated by the LRAs.

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