Lack of Correlation between HERV-K Expression and HIV-1 Viral Load in Plasma Specimens

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HERV-K viral RNA has been reported in plasma specimens of HIV-1 infected individuals. Emerging data support the regulation and functional interaction between HERV-K and HIV-1, which warrant development of accurate HERV-K assays to evaluate HERV-K activation. In this study, we examined HERV-K RNA expression after careful removal of “contaminating” cellular DNA using DNase I. We found that DNase I digestion effectively reduced HERV-K RT-PCR positive signal. We also found that levels of HERV-K expression did not correlate with HIV-1 viral load. Our study is in agreement with the published studies on HERV-K activation in HIV-1 positive plasma specimens, and in addition, calls for careful removal of cellular DNA to accurately evaluate HERV-K RNA expression.

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