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J Virol. 2003 Apr;77(8):4938-49.

Resting CD4+ T lymphocytes but not thymocytes provide a latent viral reservoir in a simian immunodeficiency virus-Macaca nemestrina model of human immunodeficiency virus type 1-infected patients on highly active antiretroviral therapy.

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Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


Despite suppression of viremia in patients on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), human immunodeficiency virus type 1 persists in a latent reservoir in the resting memory CD4(+) T lymphocytes and possibly in other reservoirs. To better understand the mechanisms of viral persistence, we established a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-macaque model to mimic the clinical situation of patients on suppressive HAART and developed assays to detect latently infected cells in the SIV-macaque system. In this model, treatment of SIV-infected pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina) with the combination of 9-R-(2-phosphonomethoxypropyl)adenine (PMPA; tenofovir) and beta-2',3'-dideoxy-3'-thia-5-fluorocytidine (FTC) suppressed the levels of plasma virus to below the limit of detection (100 copies of viral RNA per ml). In treated animals, levels of viremia remained close to or below the limit of detection for up to 6 months except for an isolated "blip" of detectable viremia in each animal. Latent virus was measured in blood, spleen, lymph nodes, and thymus by several different methods. Replication-competent virus was recovered after activation of a 99.5% pure population of resting CD4(+) T lymphocytes from a lymph node of a treated animal. Integrated SIV DNA was detected in resting CD4(+) T cells from spleen, peripheral blood, and various lymph nodes including those draining the gut, the head, and the limbs. In contrast to the wide distribution of latently infected cells in peripheral lymphoid tissues, neither replication-competent virus nor integrated SIV DNA was detected in thymocytes, suggesting that thymocytes are not a major reservoir for virus in pig-tailed macaques. The results provide the first evidence for a latent viral reservoir for SIV in macaques and the most extensive survey of the distribution of latently infected cells in the host.

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