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Retrovirology. 2014 Mar 21;11:25. doi: 10.1186/1742-4690-11-25.

Vpx complementation of 'non-macrophage tropic' R5 viruses reveals robust entry of infectious HIV-1 cores into macrophages.

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Department of Infection, University College London, London, UK.



It is now known that clinically derived viruses are most commonly R5 tropic with very low infectivity in macrophages. As these viruses utilize CD4 inefficiently, defective entry has been assumed to be the dominant restriction. The implication is that macrophages are not an important reservoir for the majority of circulating viruses.


Macrophage infection by clinical transmitted/founder isolates was 10-100 and 30-450 fold less efficient as compared to YU-2 and BaL respectively. Vpx complementation augmented macrophage infection by non-macrophage tropic viruses to the level of infectivity observed for YU-2 in the absence of Vpx. Augmentation was evident even when Vpx was provided 24 hours post-infection. The entry defect was measured as 2.5-5 fold, with a further 3.5-10 fold block at strong stop and subsequent stages of reverse transcription as compared to YU-2. The overall block to infection was critically dependent on the mechanism of entry as demonstrated by rescue of infection after pseudotyping with VSV-G envelope. Reverse transcription in macrophages could not be enhanced using a panel of cytokines or lipopolysaccharide (LPS).


Although the predominant block to clinical transmitted/founder viruses is post-entry, infectivity is determined by Env-CD4 interactions and can be rescued with VSV-G pseudotyping. This suggests a functional link between the optimal entry pathway taken by macrophage tropic viruses and downstream events required for reverse transcription. Consistent with a predominantly post-entry block, replication of R5 using viruses can be greatly enhanced by Vpx. We conclude therefore that entry is not the limiting step and that macrophages represent clinically relevant reservoirs for 'non-macrophage tropic' viruses.

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