Lipids are biologically active molecules involved in a variety of cellular processes and immunological functions, including inflammation. It was recently shown that phospholipids and their derivatives, lysophospholipids, can reactivate latent (dormant) tumor cells, causing cancer recurrence. However, the potential link between lipids and HIV latency, persistence, and viral rebound after cessation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) has never been investigated. We explored the links between plasma lipids and the burden of HIV during ART. We profiled the circulating lipidome from plasma samples from 24 chronically HIV-infected individuals on suppressive ART who subsequently underwent an analytic treatment interruption (ATI) without concurrent immunotherapies. The pre-ATI viral burden was estimated as time-to-viral-rebound and viral load set points post-ATI. We found that higher pre-ATI levels of lysophospholipids, including the proinflammatory lysophosphatidylcholine, were associated with faster time-to-viral-rebound and higher viral set points upon ART cessation. Furthermore, higher pre-ATI levels of the proinflammatory by-product of intestinal lysophosphatidylcholine metabolism, trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), were also linked to faster viral rebound post-ART. Finally, pre-ATI levels of several phosphatidylcholine species (lysophosphatidylcholine precursors) correlated strongly with higher pre-ATI levels of HIV DNA in peripheral CD4(+) T cells. Our proof-of-concept data point to phospholipids and lysophospholipids as plausible proinflammatory contributors to HIV persistence and rapid post-ART HIV rebound. The potential interplay between phospholipid metabolism and both the establishment and maintenance of HIV latent reservoirs during and after ART warrants further investigation.IMPORTANCE The likelihood of HIV rebound after stopping antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a combination of the size of HIV reservoirs that persist despite ART and the host immunological and inflammatory factors that control these reservoirs. Therefore, there is a need to comprehensively understand these host factors to develop a strategy to cure HIV infection and prevent viral rebound post-ART. Lipids are important biologically active molecules that are known to mediate several cellular functions, including reactivating latent tumor cells; however, their role in HIV latency, persistence, and post-ART rebound has never been investigated. We observed significant links between higher levels of the proinflammatory lysophosphatidylcholine and its intestinal metabolic by-product, trimethylamine-N-oxide, and both faster time-to-viral-rebound and higher viral load set point post-ART. These data highlight the need for further studies to understand the potential contribution of phosphatidylcholine and lysophosphatidylcholine metabolism in shaping host immunological and inflammatory milieu during and after ART.
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