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Cell. 1994 Aug 12;78(3):389-98.

Conjugates of dendritic cells and memory T lymphocytes from skin facilitate productive infection with HIV-1.

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Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021.


Experimentally, a productive infection with HIV-1 requires that virus be administered to T cells that are activated by mitogens. We describe a productive milieu for HIV-1 within the confines of normal skin that does not require standard stimuli. The milieu consists of dendritic cells and T cells that emigrate from skin and produce distinctive stable, nonproliferating conjugates. These conjugates, upon exposure to each of seven different HIV-1 isolates, begin to release high levels of virus progeny within 4 days. Numerous infected syncytia, comprised of both dendritic and T cells, rapidly develop. We propose that conjugates of dendritic cells and T cells, as found in the external linings of organs involved in sexual transmission of HIV-1, represent an important site for the productive phase of HIV-1 infection. Because the affected T cells carry the memory phenotype, this site additionally provides a mechanism for the chronic depletion of CD4+ memory cells in HIV-1 disease.

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