Tracking HIV-1-Infected Cell Clones Using Integration Site-Specific qPCR

Viruses. 2021 Jun 25;13(7):1235. doi: 10.3390/v13071235.


Efforts to cure HIV-1 infection require better quantification of the HIV-1 reservoir, particularly the clones of cells harboring replication-competent (intact) proviruses, termed repliclones. The digital droplet PCR assays commonly used to quantify intact proviruses do not differentiate among specific repliclones, thus the dynamics of repliclones are not well defined. The major challenge in tracking repliclones is the relative rarity of the cells carrying specific intact proviruses. To date, detection and accurate quantification of repliclones requires in-depth integration site sequencing. Here, we describe a simplified workflow using integration site-specific qPCR (IS-qPCR) to determine the frequencies of the proviruses integrated in individual repliclones. We designed IS-qPCR to determine the frequencies of repliclones and clones of cells that carry defective proviruses in samples from three donors. Comparing the results of IS-qPCR with deep integration site sequencing data showed that the two methods yielded concordant estimates of clone frequencies (r = 0.838). IS-qPCR is a potentially valuable tool that can be applied to multiple samples and cell types over time to measure the dynamics of individual repliclones and the efficacy of treatments designed to eliminate them.

Keywords: HIV-1 reservoir; HIV-1-infected cell clones; proviral integration sites; repliclones.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 5'-Nucleotidase / genetics
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology*
  • Cell Line
  • Glycoproteins / genetics
  • HIV Infections / virology*
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / virology*
  • Proviruses / genetics
  • Proviruses / physiology*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction*
  • Viral Load
  • Virus Integration*


  • Glycoproteins
  • 5'-Nucleotidase
  • NT5C3A protein, human