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J Virol. 2000 Jan;74(1):57-64.

Identifying the target cell in primary simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection: highly activated memory CD4(+) T cells are rapidly eliminated in early SIV infection in vivo.

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New England Regional Primate Research Center, Harvard Medical School, Southborough, Massachusetts 01772, USA.


It has recently been shown that rapid and profound CD4(+) T-cell depletion occurs almost exclusively within the intestinal tract of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected macaques within days of infection. Here we demonstrate (by three- and four-color flow cytometry) that this depletion is specific to a definable subset of CD4(+) T cells, namely, those having both a highly and/or acutely activated (CD69(+) CD38(+) HLA-DR(+)) and memory (CD45RA(-) Leu8(-)) phenotype. Moreover, we demonstrate that this subset of helper T cells is found primarily within the intestinal lamina propria. Viral tropism for this particular cell type (which has been previously suggested by various studies in vitro) could explain why profound CD4(+) T-cell depletion occurs in the intestine and not in peripheral lymphoid tissues in early SIV infection. Furthermore, we demonstrate that an acute loss of this specific subset of activated memory CD4(+) T cells may also be detected in peripheral blood and lymph nodes in early SIV infection. However, since this particular cell type is present in such small numbers in circulation, its loss does not significantly affect total CD4(+) T cell counts. This finding suggests that SIV and, presumably, human immunodeficiency virus specifically infect, replicate in, and eliminate definable subsets of CD4(+) T cells in vivo.

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