Generalized immune activation during HIV infection is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, neurocognitive disease, osteoporosis, metabolic disorders, and physical frailty. The mechanisms driving this immune activation are poorly understood, particularly for individuals effectively treated with antiretroviral medications. We hypothesized that viral characteristics such as sequence diversity may play a role in driving HIV-associated immune activation. We therefore sequenced proviral DNA isolated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells from HIV-infected individuals on fully suppressive antiretroviral therapy. We performed phylogenetic analyses, calculated viral diversity and divergence in the env and pol genes, and determined coreceptor tropism and the frequency of drug resistance mutations. Comprehensive immune profiling included quantification of immune cell subsets, plasma cytokine levels, and intracellular signaling responses in T cells, B cells, and monocytes. These antiretroviral therapy-treated HIV-infected individuals exhibited a wide range of diversity and divergence in both env and pol genes. However, proviral diversity and divergence in env and pol, coreceptor tropism, and the level of drug resistance did not significantly correlate with markers of immune activation. A clinical history of virologic failure was also not significantly associated with levels of immune activation, indicating that a history of virologic failure does not inexorably lead to increased immune activation as long as suppressive antiretroviral medications are provided. Overall, this study demonstrates that latent viral diversity is unlikely to be a major driver of persistent HIV-associated immune activation.Chronic immune activation, which is associated with cardiovascular disease, neurologic disease, and early aging, is likely to be a major driver of morbidity and mortality in HIV-infected individuals. Although treatment of HIV with antiretroviral medications decreases the level of immune activation, levels do not return to normal. The factors driving this persistent immune activation, particularly during effective treatment, are poorly understood. In this study, we investigated whether characteristics of the latent, integrated HIV provirus that persists during treatment are associated with immune activation. We found no relationship between latent viral characteristics and immune activation in treated individuals, indicating that qualities of the provirus are unlikely to be a major driver of persistent inflammation. We also found that individuals who had previously failed treatment but were currently effectively treated did not have significantly increased levels of immune activation, providing hope that past treatment failures do not have a lifelong "legacy" impact.
View details for DOI 10.1128/JVI.01257-14
View details for PubMedID 24850730
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4135944