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Mod Pathol. 2006 Feb;19(2):255-63.

Cell reservoirs in lymph nodes infected with HIV-1 subtype E differ from subtype B: identification by combined in situ polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand.


In Thailand, the predominant HIV subtype is E, rather than subtype B as in North America and Europe. Subtype E has the ability to replicate in vitro in Langerhans cells. We hypothesized that this cell type might constitute a reservoir for the HIV virus in infected lymph nodes. We examined lymph nodes from 25 HIV-1 subtype E-infected patients to determine the immunophenotype of HIV-1-infected cells, their numbers and their distribution. The presence of HIV was detected either by in situ reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction or immunoperoxidase. Cell identity was determined by double labelling using alkaline phosphatase-based immunohistochemistry. The majority of HIV-infected cells in the lymph nodes were Langerhans cells (CD1a+S100+) and Langerhans-related dendritic cells (p55+S100+). These cells were located in the paracortical areas of lymph nodes, with a few cells scattered at the edges of germinal centers, but were absent from germinal centers themselves, in contrast to the reported distribution of subtype B virus. In addition, multinucleated giant cells were significantly more common in HIV-infected nodes (64%) compared to controls (4%) (P=0.00002). In conclusion, Langerhans histiocytes and related cells are reservoirs for HIV subtype E in lymph nodes. Disrupting the pathway of infection of Langerhans cells and related cells may be a viable strategy to interfere with transmission of HIV subtype E.

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