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Methods Mol Biol. 2014;1087:233-48. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-670-2_19.

Histocultures (tissue explants) in human retrovirology.

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  • 1Section of Intercellular Interactions, Program on Physical Biology, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


Viral pathogenesis is studied predominantly in cultures of primary isolated cells or cell lines. Many retroviruses efficiently replicate only in activated cells. Therefore, in order to become efficient viral producers cells should be artificially activated, a procedure which significantly changes cell physiology. However, for many viral diseases, like HIV-1 and other retroviruses' diseases, critical pathogenic events occur in tissues. Therefore, cell isolation from their native microenvironment prevents single-cell cultures from faithfully reflecting important aspects of cell-cell and cell-pathogen interactions that occur in the context of complex tissue cytoarchitecture. Tissue explants (histocultures) that retain tissue cytoarchitecture and many aspects of cell-cell interactions more faithfully represent in vivo tissue features. Human histocultures constitute an adequate model for studying viral pathogenesis under controlled laboratory conditions. Protocols for various human histocultures as applied to study retroviral pathogenesis, in particular of HIV-1, have been refined by our laboratory and are described in the present publication. Histocultures of human tonsils and lymph nodes, as well as of recto-sigmoid and cervicovaginal tissues can be used to study viral transmission, pathogenesis and as a preclinical platform for antivirals evaluation.

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