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AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2004 Mar;20(3):285-95.

Long HIV type 1 reverse transcripts can accumulate stably within resting CD4+ T cells while short ones are degraded.

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Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


We utilized quantitative methods to compare the efficiency of reverse transcription and stability of viral DNA within resting and activated T cells. Highly purified resting CD4(+) T cells and activated T cells from healthy donors were spinoculated with HIV-1(YU-2), then cultured in conditions that maintain both the viability and the quiescence of the resting cells. Spreading infection was suppressed, then kinetic PCR was used to relate the rates of synthesis of short (strong-stop, RU5) and long (gag or U3-gag second strand transfer) viral DNA to the mean number of virions initially bound to each type of cell. As shown previously, activated cells support an initial burst of high-level reverse transcription, which is then followed by a approximately 10-fold decay in cDNA levels over 4.5 days. In resting T cells, although the synthesis of late reverse transcripts was initially approximately 1000-fold less efficient than in activated T cells, the number of these cDNAs per bound input virion rose 10-fold as culture was extended to 4.5 days. The number of late reverse transcripts remained constant for 3 days after the addition of efavirinez, reflecting enhanced stability. In contrast, the short strong-step reverse transcripts were mostly degraded. Thus, late HIV-1 reverse transcripts can accumulate stably in resting T cells in the absence of detectable T cell activation. Defining the underlying basis for the stabilization of late reverse transcripts, and their associated nucleoprotein complexes, may be pertinent to the accumulation of reservoirs of latent HIV-1 in patients, and could provide a target for future therapies.

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