Increased Proviral DNA in Circulating Cells Correlates with Plasma Viral Rebound in Simian Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Rhesus Macaques after Antiretroviral Therapy Interruption

J Virol. 2021 Feb 24;95(6):e02064-20. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02064-20. Print 2021 Feb 24.


The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) reservoir is responsible for persistent viral infection, and a small number of mosaic latent cellular reservoirs promote viral rebound upon antiretroviral therapy interruption, which is the major obstacle to a cure. However, markers that determine effective therapy and viral rebound posttreatment interruption remain unclear. In this study, we comprehensively and longitudinally tracked dynamic decay of cell-associated viral RNA/DNA in systemic and lymphoid tissues in simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected rhesus macaques on prolonged combined antiretroviral therapy (cART) and evaluated predictors of viral rebound after treatment cessation. The results showed that suppressive ART substantially reduced plasma SIV RNA, cell-associated unspliced, and multiply spliced SIV RNA to undetectable levels, yet viral DNA remained detectable in systemic tissues and lymphoid compartments throughout cART. Intriguingly, a rapid increase of integrated proviral DNA in peripheral mononuclear cells was detected once treatment was withdrawn, accompanied by the emergence of detectable plasma viral load. Notably, the increase of peripheral proviral DNA after treatment interruption correlated with the emergence and degree of viral rebound. These findings suggest that measuring total viral DNA in SIV infection may be a relatively simple surrogate marker of reservoir size and may predict viral rebound after treatment interruption and inform treatment strategies.IMPORTANCE Viral reservoirs are involved in persistent HIV infection, and a small number of mosaic latent cellular reservoirs promote viral rebound upon analytical treatment interruption, which is the major obstacle to a cure. However, early indicators that can predict resurgence of viremia after treatment interruption may aid treatment decisions in people living with HIV. Utilizing the rhesus macaque model, we demonstrated that increased proviral DNA in peripheral cells after treatment interruption, rather than levels of proviral DNA, was a useful marker to predict the emergence and degree of viral rebound after treatment interruption, providing a rapid approach for monitoring HIV rebound and informing decisions.

Keywords: SIV/HIV; antiretroviral therapy; cell-associated viruses; proviral DNA; proviral DNA and viral rebound; viral rebound; viral reservoir.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • DNA, Viral / drug effects
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / virology
  • Lymph Nodes / virology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Proviruses / drug effects
  • Proviruses / physiology*
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • RNA, Viral / drug effects
  • Simian Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Simian Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / virology*
  • Simian Immunodeficiency Virus / drug effects
  • Simian Immunodeficiency Virus / physiology*
  • Viral Load / drug effects
  • Viremia / drug therapy
  • Viremia / virology
  • Virus Activation*


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • DNA, Viral
  • RNA, Viral