The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) latent reservoir in resting CD4(+) T cells represents a major barrier to viral eradication. Small compounds capable of latency reversal have not demonstrated uniform responses across in vitro HIV-1 latency cell models. Characterizing compounds that demonstrate latency-reversing activity in resting CD4(+) T cells from aviremic patients ex vivo will help inform pilot clinical trials aimed at HIV-1 eradication. We have optimized a rapid ex vivo assay using resting CD4(+) T cells from aviremic HIV-1(+) patients to evaluate both the bioactivity and latency-reversing potential of candidate latency-reversing agents (LRAs). Using this assay, we characterize the properties of two candidate compounds from promising LRA classes, ingenol 3,20-dibenzoate (a protein kinase C agonist) and panobinostat (a histone deacetylase inhibitor), in cells from HIV-1(+) antiretroviral therapy (ART)-treated aviremic participants, including the effects on cellular activation and cytotoxicity. Ingenol induced viral release at levels similar to those of the positive control (CD3/28 receptor stimulation) in cells from a majority of participants and represents an exciting LRA candidate, as it combines a robust viral reactivation potential with a low toxicity profile. At concentrations that blocked histone deacetylation, panobinostat displayed a wide range of potency among participant samples and consistently induced significant levels of apoptosis. The protein kinase C agonist ingenol 3,20-dibenzoate demonstrated significant promise in a rapid ex vivo assay using resting CD4(+) T cells from treated HIV-1-positive patients to measure latent HIV-1 reactivation.
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