Genetic characterization of the HIV-1 reservoir after Vacc-4x and romidepsin therapy in HIV-1-infected individuals

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Therapeutic HIV-1 immunization followed by latency reversal has been suggested as a strategy to eradicate HIV-1. Here we investigate the phylogenetic composition of the HIV-1 regions targeted by the therapeutic HIV-1 peptide vaccine Vacc-4x in participants in a clinical trial.


Seventeen participants on suppressive antiretroviral therapy were vaccinated with six doses of Vacc-4x followed by three doses of romidepsin. Seven study participants were selected for sequencing analysis. All participants underwent an analytical treatment interruption.


Single-genome/proviral sequencing of the p24-RT region was performed to genetically characterize proviral DNA, cell-associated RNA and outgrowth viruses during therapy as well as plasma HIV-1 RNA during an analytical treatment interruption.


There were no changes in cell-associated HIV-1 RNA (P = 0.83) and DNA (P = 0.09) diversity over the course of the study and no difference between cell-associated HIV-1 RNA and DNA diversity (P = 0.32). Only one participant showed signs of potential vaccine-related selection in the rebounding plasma virus. In five of seven participants, we identified human leukocyte antigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) epitopes containing nonsilent mutations in 100% of the sequences.


We detected no evidence of selective immune pressure reflected in proviral diversity or by occurrence of specific mutation in the vaccine-targeted epitopes. Preexisting CTL epitope mutations may affect the potency of this therapeutic vaccine. This highlights the challenges of developing effective HIV-1 therapeutic vaccines.

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