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PLoS Pathog. 2013;9(6):e1003432. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003432. Epub 2013 Jun 20.

Single cell analysis of lymph node tissue from HIV-1 infected patients reveals that the majority of CD4+ T-cells contain one HIV-1 DNA molecule.

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Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell-biology, Karolinska Institutet, Solna, Sweden.


Genetic recombination contributes to the diversity of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1). Productive HIV-1 recombination is, however, dependent on both the number of HIV-1 genomes per infected cell and the genetic relationship between these viral genomes. A detailed analysis of the number of proviruses and their genetic relationship in infected cells isolated from peripheral blood and tissue compartments is therefore important for understanding HIV-1 recombination, genetic diversity and the dynamics of HIV-1 infection. To address these issues, we used a previously developed single-cell sequencing technique to quantify and genetically characterize individual HIV-1 DNA molecules from single cells in lymph node tissue and peripheral blood. Analysis of memory and naïve CD4(+) T cells from paired lymph node and peripheral blood samples from five untreated chronically infected patients revealed that the majority of these HIV-1-infected cells (>90%) contain only one copy of HIV-1 DNA, implying a limited potential for productive recombination in virus produced by these cells in these two compartments. Phylogenetic analysis revealed genetic similarity of HIV-1 DNA in memory and naïve CD4(+) T-cells from lymph node, peripheral blood and HIV-1 RNA from plasma, implying exchange of virus and/or infected cells between these compartments in untreated chronic infection.

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