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J Virol. 2011 Apr;85(7):3086-94. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02150-10. Epub 2011 Jan 19.

Effect of B-cell depletion on coreceptor switching in R5 simian-human immunodeficiency virus infection of rhesus macaques.

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Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, 455 First Avenue, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10016, USA.


We recently described a coreceptor switch in rapid progressor (RP) R5 simian-human immunodeficiency virus SF162P3N (SHIV(SF162P3N))-infected rhesus macaques that had high virus replication and undetectable or weak and transient antiviral antibody response (S. H. Ho et al., J. Virol. 81:8621-8633, 2007; S. H. Ho, N. Trunova, A. Gettie, J. Blanchard, and C. Cheng-Mayer, J. Virol. 82:5653-5656, 2008; and W. Ren et al., J. Virol. 84:340-351, 2010). The lack of antibody selective pressure, together with the observation that the emerging X4 variants were neutralization sensitive, suggested that the absence or weakening of the virus-specific humoral immune response could be an environmental factor fostering coreceptor switching in vivo. To test this possibility, we treated four macaques with 50 mg/kg of body weight of the anti-CD20 antibody rituximab every 2 to 3 weeks starting from the week prior to intravenous infection with SHIV(SF162P3N) for a total of six infusions. Rituximab treatment successfully depleted peripheral and lymphoid CD20(+) cells for up to 25 weeks according to flow cytometry and immunohistochemical staining, with partial to full recovery in two of the four treated monkeys thereafter. Three of the four treated macaques failed to mount a detectable anti-SHIV antibody response, while the response was delayed in the remaining animal. The three seronegative macaques progressed to disease, but in none of them could the presence of X4 variants be demonstrated by V3 sequence and tropism analyses. Furthermore, viruses did not evolve early in these diseased macaques to be more soluble CD4 sensitive. These results demonstrate that the absence or diminution of humoral immune responses by itself is insufficient to drive the R5-to-X4 switch and the neutralization susceptibility of the evolving viruses.

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