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J Virol. 1993 Apr;67(4):2182-90.

Quantitation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection kinetics.

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Section on Membrane Structure and Function, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


Tissue culture infections of CD4-positive human T cells by human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) proceed in three stages: (i) a period following the initiation of an infection during which no detectable virus is produced; (ii) a phase in which a sharp increase followed by a peak of released progeny virions can be measured; and (iii) a final period when virus production declines. In this study, we have derived equations describing the kinetics of HIV-1 accumulation in cell culture supernatants during multiple rounds of infection. Our analyses indicated that the critical parameter affecting the kinetics of HIV-1 infection is the infection rate constant k = Inn/ti, where n is the number of infectious virions produced by one cell (about 10(2)) and ti is the time required for one complete cycle of virus infection (typically 3 to 4 days). Of particular note was our finding that the infectivity of HIV-1 during cell-to-cell transmission is 10(2) to 10(3) times greater than the infectivity of cell-free virus stocks, the inocula commonly used to initiate tissue culture infections. We also demonstrated that the slow infection kinetics of an HIV-1 tat mutant is not due to a longer replication time but reflects the small number of infectious particles produced per cycle.

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