Reversal of HIV-1 latency by small molecules is a potential cure strategy. This approach will likely require effective drug combinations to achieve high levels of latency reversal. Using resting CD4+ T cells (rCD4s) from infected individuals, we developed an experimental and theoretical framework to identify effective latency-reversing agent (LRA) combinations. Utilizing ex vivo assays for intracellular HIV-1 mRNA and virion production, we compared 2-drug combinations of leading candidate LRAs and identified multiple combinations that effectively reverse latency. We showed that protein kinase C agonists in combination with bromodomain inhibitor JQ1 or histone deacetylase inhibitors robustly induce HIV-1 transcription and virus production when directly compared with maximum reactivation by T cell activation. Using the Bliss independence model to quantitate combined drug effects, we demonstrated that these combinations synergize to induce HIV-1 transcription. This robust latency reversal occurred without release of proinflammatory cytokines by rCD4s. To extend the clinical utility of our findings, we applied a mathematical model that estimates in vivo changes in plasma HIV-1 RNA from ex vivo measurements of virus production. Our study reconciles diverse findings from previous studies, establishes a quantitative experimental approach to evaluate combinatorial LRA efficacy, and presents a model to predict in vivo responses to LRAs.


Gregory M. Laird, C. Korin Bullen, Daniel I.S. Rosenbloom, Alyssa R. Martin, Alison L. Hill, Christine M. Durand, Janet D. Siliciano, Robert F. Siliciano


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