Purpose of review: In this review we present current advances in our understanding of HIV-1 neutralization assays that employ primary cell types, as compared with those that utilize cell lines and the newer, more standardized pseudovirus assays. A commentary on the challenges of standardizing in-vitro neutralization assays using primary cells is included.
Recent findings: The data from reporter cell line neutralization assays may agree with results observed in primary cells; however, exceptions have recently been reported. Multiple variables exist in primary cell assays using peripheral blood mononuclear cells from HIV-seronegative donors; in-vitro neutralization titers can vary significantly based on the donor cells used for assay targets and for virus propagation. Thus, more research is required to achieve validated primary cell neutralization assays.
Summary: HIV-vaccine-induced antibody performance in the current neutralization assays may function as a 'gatekeeper' for HIV-1 subunit vaccine advancement. Development of standardized platforms for reproducible measurement of in-vitro neutralization is therefore a high priority. Given the considerable variation in results obtained from some widely applied HIV neutralization platforms, parallel evaluation of new antibodies using different host cells for assay targets, as well as virus propagation, is recommended until immune correlates of protection are identified.