IMMUNOLOGY: A Reservoir of HIV

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Science  24 May 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5572, pp. 1367e-1369e
DOI: 10.1126/science.296.5572.1367e

Latent infection of quiescent CD4+ T cells by HIV represents an obstacle to the treatment of infection by means of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Viral persistence in these T cells establishes a permanent reservoir of infection that can fuel the re-appearance of significant levels of virus upon cessation of therapy.

However, not all virus detected after HAART withdrawal can be accounted for by latent HIV in CD4+ T cells, which led Valentin et al. to search for other cells that might act as pools of persisting virus. First, the authors identified CD56+ natural killer (NK) cells that expressed CD4 and the chemokine receptors CXCR4 and CCR5, which are known to act as coreceptors for viral entry into T cells. Primary cultures of these NK cells could be infected efficiently with HIV-1 virus, and virus could be obtained from NK cells purified from infected individuals. In longitudinal studies of patients undergoing HAART, NK cells were persistently infected with virus, suggesting that these lymphocytes represent a potentially important reservoir of HIV that is distinct from T cells and other mononuclear cells. — SJS

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 99, 7015 (2002).

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