BACKGROUND: DNA methylation-based estimators of biological age are reliable biomarkers of the ageing process. We aimed to investigate a range of epigenetic ageing biomarkers in a substudy of the NEAT001/ANRS143 clinical trial, which compared ritonavir-boosted darunavir with either raltegravir or tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine in antiretroviral therapy (ART)-naive adults.
METHODS: We analysed frozen whole blood samples from 168 ART-naive participants with HIV from the NEAT001/ANRS143 trial, before ART initiation and after 2 years of ART (84 participants on ritonavir-boosted darunavir with raltegravir and 84 participants on ritonavir-boosted darunavir with tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine). We also included 44 participants without HIV with a similar age and sex distribution. We analysed DNA methylation. Epigenetic age estimators (Horvath's clock, Hannum's clock, GrimAge, and PhenoAge) and estimated leucocyte compositions were generated using Horvath's New Online Methylation Age Calculator and Houseman's method. We calculated epigenetic age acceleration measures for each estimator of epigenetic age. The NEAT001/ANRS143 trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01066962.
FINDINGS: Compared with the HIV-uninfected group, ART-naive participants with HIV showed higher epigenetic age acceleration (EAA) according to all EAA estimators (mean 2·5 years, 95% CI 1·89-3·22 for Horvath-EAA; 1·4 years, 0·74-1·99 for Hannum-EAA; 2·8 years, 1·97-3·68 for GrimAge-EAA; and 7·3 years, 6·40-8·13 for PhenoAge-EAA), with all differences being statistically significant except for Hannum-EAA (Horvath-EAA p=0·0008; Hannum-EAA p=0·059; GrimAge-EAA p=0·0021; and PhenoAge-EAA p<0·0001). Epigenetic ageing was more pronounced in participants who had CD4 counts less than 200 cells per μL (significant for PhenoAge and Hannum's clock, p=0·0015 and p=0·034, respectively) or viral loads over 100 000 copies per mL at baseline (significant for PhenoAge, p=0·017). After 2 years of ART, epigenetic age acceleration was reduced, although PhenoAge and GrimAge remained significantly higher in participants with HIV compared with participants without HIV (mean difference 3·69 years, 95% CI 1·77-5·61; p=0·0002 and 2·2 years, 0·47-3·99; p=0·013, respectively). There were no significant differences in the ART effect on epigenetic ageing between treatment regimens. At baseline, participants with HIV showed dysregulation of DNA methylation-based estimated leucocyte subsets towards more differentiated T-cell phenotypes and proinflammatory leucocytes, which was also partly restored with ART.
INTERPRETATION: ART initiation partly reversed epigenetic ageing associated with untreated HIV infection. Further studies are needed to understand the long-term dynamics and clinical relevance of epigenetic ageing biomarkers in people with HIV.
FUNDING: NEAT-ID Foundation.