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J Virol. 1995 Aug;69(8):4737-45.

Infection frequency of dendritic cells and CD4+ T lymphocytes in spleens of human immunodeficiency virus-positive patients.

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Laboratoire d'Immunologie Cellulaire et Tissulaire, URA CNRS 625, Hôpital de La Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris, France.


Dendritic cells (DC) are specialized antigen-presenting leukocytes that are responsible for the activation of naive as well as memory T lymphocytes. If infected by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), DC may transfer virus to CD4+ lymphocytes. However, the question of whether DC are infected in vivo is controversial. As HIV infection is more active in secondary lymphoid organs than in blood, infection of splenic DC isolated from HIV-seropositive patients was investigated. Splenic DC were first enriched and characterized by flow cytometry from HIV- donors. After direct isolation, they were negative for monocyte and T- and B-lymphocyte markers, negative for CD1a, but positive for major histocompatibility complex class II and CD4. After in vitro maturation, major histocompatibility complex class II expression increased, while CD4 expression was lost. Extensive purification from the spleens of seven HIV+ patients was performed by fluorescence-activated cell sorting. The frequency of cells harboring HIV DNA in purified populations was quantified by limiting-dilution PCR. Directly isolated DC (average, 1/3,000; range, 1/720 to 1/18,000) were in each patient 10 to 100 times less infected than CD4+ T lymphocytes (average, 1/52; range, 1/17 to 1/190). On average, 1/1,450 (1/320 to 1/6,100) unseparated mononuclear splenocytes (containing 5% CD4+ lymphocytes) harbored HIV DNA. In conclusion, in these HIV+ patient spleens, DC seem to be infected, but HIV-DNA positive CD4+ T lymphocytes accounted for the vast majority of infected mononuclear splenocytes.

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