Quantitation of the latent HIV-1 reservoir from the sequence diversity in viral outgrowth assays

Art F.Y. Poon, Jessica L. Prodger, Briana A. Lynch, Jun Lai, Steven J. Reynolds, Jingo Kasule, Adam A. Capoferri, Susanna L. Lamers, Christopher W. Rodriguez, Daniel Bruno, Stephen F. Porcella, Craig Martens, Thomas C. Quinn, Andrew D. Redd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The ability of HIV-1 to integrate into the genomes of quiescent host immune cells, establishing a long-lived latent viral reservoir (LVR), is the primary obstacle to curing these infections. Quantitative viral outgrowth assays (QVOAs) are the gold standard for estimating the size of the replication-competent HIV-1 LVR, measured by the number of infectious units per million (IUPM) cells. QVOAs are time-consuming because they rely on culturing replicate wells to amplify the production of virus antigen or nucleic acid to reproducibly detectable levels. Sequence analysis can reduce the required number of culture wells because the virus genetic diversity within the LVR provides an internal replication and dilution series. Here we develop a Bayesian method to jointly estimate the IUPM and variant frequencies (a measure of clonality) from the sequence diversity of QVOAs. Results: Using simulation experiments, we find our Bayesian approach confers significantly greater accuracy over current methods to estimate the IUPM, particularly for reduced numbers of QVOA replicates and/or increasing actual IUPM. Furthermore, we determine that the improvement in accuracy is greater with increasing genetic diversity in the sample population. We contrast results of these different methods applied to new HIV-1 sequence data derived from QVOAs from two individuals with suppressed viral loads from the Rakai Health Sciences Program in Uganda. Conclusions: Utilizing sequence variation has the additional benefit of providing information on the contribution of clonality of the LVR, where high clonality (the predominance of a single genetic variant) suggests a role for cell division in the long-term persistence of the reservoir. In addition, our Bayesian approach can be adapted to other limiting dilution assays where positive outcomes can be partitioned by their genetic heterogeneity, such as immune cell populations and other viruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number47
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 5 2018


  • Bayesian inference
  • HIV-1
  • Latent viral reservoir
  • Limiting dilution assay
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Viral outgrowth assay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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