A highly sensitive aptamer-based HIV reverse transcriptase detection assay

Publication date: July 2018
Source:Journal of Virological Methods, Volume 257
Author(s): Jeffrey J. DeStefano, Irani Alves Ferreira-Bravo
Although many new assays for HIV have been developed, several labs still use simple and reliable radioactivity-based reverse transcriptase (RT) nucleotide incorporation assays for detection and quantification. We describe here a new assay for detection and quantitation of HIV RT activity that is based on a high affinity DNA aptamer to RT. The aptamer is sequestered on 96-well plates where it can bind to RT and other constituents can be removed by extensive washing. Since the aptamer mimics a primer-template, upon radiolabeled nucleotide addition, bound RT molecules can extend the aptamer and the radioactive signal can be detected by standard methods. In addition to being procedurally simple, the assay demonstrated high sensitivity (detection limits for RT and virions were ≤6400 molecules (∼4 × 10−8 units) and ∼100–300 virions, respectively) and was essentially linear over a range of at least 104. Both wild type and drug-resistant forms of HIV-1 RT were detectable as was HIV-2 RT, although there were some modest differences in sensitivity.