Associations between HIV-1 DNA copy number, proviral transcriptional activity, and plasma viremia in individuals off or on suppressive antiretroviral therapy

Publication date: August 2018
Source:Virology, Volume 521
Author(s): Feiyu Hong, Jana L. Jacobs, Evgenia Aga, Anthony R. Cillo, Elizabeth Fyne, Dianna L. Koontz, Lu Zheng, John W. Mellors
The relationships between HIV-1 DNA copy number, proviral transcriptional activity, and residual plasma viremia in individuals off and on ART are not well defined. To address this, we performed a cross-sectional study of 12 viremic donors and 23 ART-treated virologically suppressed (plasma HIV-1 RNA<20 copies/ml) donors. We report a strong association between HIV-1 DNA copy number and HIV-1 transcriptional activity in blood that persists on suppressive ART, but not between transcriptional activity and the levels of persistent viremia on ART. The latter finding contrasts with that in viremic donors and suggests that most HIV transcription in donors on suppressive ART does not result in virion production. This uncoupling of proviral transcription and viremia warrants closer investigation.