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J Virol. 2007 Mar;81(5):2297-306. Epub 2006 Dec 13.

Preferential infection of dendritic cells during human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection of blood leukocytes.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, Monash University, Commercial Road, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia.


Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) transmission by the parenteral route is similar to mucosal transmission in the predominance of virus using the CCR5 coreceptor (R5 virus), but it is unclear whether blood dendritic cells (DCs), monocytes, or T cells are the cells initially infected. We used ex vivo HIV-1 infection of sorted blood mononuclear cells to model the in vivo infection of blood leukocytes. Using quantitative real-time PCR to detect full-length HIV-1 DNA, both sorted CD11c(+) myeloid and CD11c(-) plasmacytoid DCs were more frequently infected than other blood mononuclear cells, including CD16(+) or CD14(+) monocytes or resting CD4(+) T cells. There was a strong correlation between CCR5 coreceptor use and preferential DC infection across a range of HIV-1 isolates. After infection of unsorted blood mononuclear cells, HIV-1 was initially detected in the CD11c(+) DCs and later in other leukocytes, including clustering DCs and activated T cells. DC infection with R5 virus was productive, as shown by efficient transmission to CD4(+) T cells in coculture. Blood DCs infected with HIV-1 in vitro and cultured alone expressed only low levels of multiply spliced HIV-1 RNA unless cocultured with CD4(+) T cells. Early selective infection of immature blood DCs by R5 virus and upregulation of viral expression during DC-T-cell interaction and transmission provide a potential pathway for R5 selection following parenteral transmission.

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