In this study we have developed an in vitro system to evaluate the combined effect of two NRTIs on HIV replication and to assess their antagonism or synergy. Synergy or antagonism effect was determined in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) to approach a more physiological model than T-cell lines. PBMCs were infected with a full-length HIV-1 clone carrying the luciferase gene as a reporter. The following combinations were investigated: zidovudine+stavudine (ZDV + d4T), lamivudine + abacavir (3TC + ABC), lamivudine + didanosine (3TC + ddI), lamivudine + stavudine (3TC + d4T), tenofovir + stavudine (TDF + d4T), tenofovir + didanosine (TDF + ddI), tenofovir + abacavir (TDF + ABC), tenofovir + lamivudine (TDF + 3TC), tenofovir + zidovudine (TDF + ZDV), stavudine + didanosine (d4T + ddI), zidovudine + lamivudine (ZDV + 3TC), abacavir + didanosine (ABC + ddI), zidovudine + didanosine (ZDV + ddI), and abacavir + stavudine (ABC + d4T). The effect of combining two drugs was evaluated with a quantitative method based on the median-effect principle of Chou and Talalay. A synergistic effect was observed with combinations containing TDF and ZDV or d4T, d4T and ddI and ZDV plus 3TC. In contrast, combinations including TDF + ddI, 3TC + ddI, ABC + ddI, and ZDV + ddI showed an antagonistic effect on the inhibition of viral replication at all levels of inhibition tested. Lower antagonistic effect was also found in drug combinations that included 3TC + ABC, 3TC + TDF, 3TC + d4T, and TDF + ABC. In conclusion, the method developed allows to measure in vitro the effect of different combinations of two NRTIs on HIV replication. The results suggest that combined therapy including TDF with thymidine analogues may be considered for future therapeutic options in contrast to clearly antagonistic combinations such us TDF plus ddI or 3TC plus ddI, that would explain virological failure in clinical studies when these combinations were used.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.