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PLoS One. 2008 Mar 12;3(3):e1792. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001792.

Infection of semen-producing organs by SIV during the acute and chronic stages of the disease.

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INSERM U625, Rennes, University of Rennes I, Groupe d'Etude de la Reproduction chez l'Homme et les Mammifères, IFR 140, Campus de Beaulieu, Rennes, France.



Although indirect evidence suggests the male genital tract as a possible source of persistent HIV shedding in semen during antiretroviral therapy, this phenomenon is poorly understood due to the difficulty of sampling semen-producing organs in HIV+ asymptomatic individuals.


Using a range of molecular and cell biological techniques, this study investigates SIV infection within reproductive organs of macaques during the acute and chronic stages of the disease. We demonstrate for the first time the presence of SIV in the testes, epididymides, prostate and seminal vesicles as early as 14 days post-inoculation. This infection persists throughout the chronic stage and positively correlates with blood viremia. The prostate and seminal vesicles appear to be the most efficiently infected reproductive organs, followed by the epididymides and testes. Within the male genital tract, mostly T lymphocytes and a small number of germ cells harbour SIV antigens and RNA. In contrast to the other organs studied, the testis does not display an immune response to the infection. Testosteronemia is transiently increased during the early phase of the infection but spermatogenesis remains unaffected.


The present study reveals that SIV infection of the macaque male genital tract is an early event and that semen-producing organs display differential infection levels and immune responses. These results help elucidate the origin of HIV in semen and constitute an essential base to improving the design of antiretroviral therapies to eradicate virus from semen.

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