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, 35 (3), 326-334

The Use of Droplet Digital PCR to Quantify HIV-1 Replication in the Colorectal Explant Model


The Use of Droplet Digital PCR to Quantify HIV-1 Replication in the Colorectal Explant Model

Ashley Myerski et al. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses.


Ex vivo explant models are used to characterize in vitro efficacy of preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) agents. Tissue is challenged with virus in culture and HIV-1 p24 levels are quantified with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) on supernatants collected throughout a 14-21-day incubation. Due to the narrow dynamic range of HIV-1 p24 kits, we evaluated whether droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) provides an alternative method to quantify HIV-1 replication in supernatant samples. We used samples from the MWRI-01 study, which evaluated the pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic profile of long-acting rilpivirine using the explant model (McGowan et al. Lancet HIV 2016). HIV-1 pol RNA was measured with ddPCR, either directly with a one-step method or reverse transcribed to cDNA before ddPCR (two-step method) on supernatants from the MWRI-01 study. Previously analyzed HIV-1 p24 antigen levels (Alliance; Perkin-Elmer) were available for comparison purposes. Both ddPCR methods strongly correlated with HIV-1 p24 and displayed similar patterns of HIV-1 suppression before and after rilpivirine. Compared to the p24 ELISA, two-step and one-step ddPCR reduced the amount of hands-on time by approximately one-half and two-thirds, respectively. ddPCR also required less sample and based on p24 versus ddPCR correlation, could potentially reduce the explant culture time from 14 to 10 days (r2 = 0.78, p < .001) due to the increased sensitivity of ddPCR. We demonstrate that ddPCR is a suitable alternative to HIV-1 p24 ELISA to quantify HIV-1 infection in the explant model and has the potential to decrease explant culture time.

Keywords: HIV-1; HIV-1 p24; ddPCR; explant challenge; qPCR.

Conflict of interest statement

No competing financial interests exist.

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