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AIDS. 1996 Jun;10(7):F9-16.

Differential tropism of HIV-1 isolates for distinct thymocyte subsets in vitro.

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1
Department of Pediatrics, University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Understanding the interaction between HIV and developing thymocytes is crucial in determining how HIV infection perturbs the immune system. We determined which thymocyte subsets can harbor and express HIV.

DESIGN:

HIV expression in mature and immature thymocytes obtained from surgical specimens from non-infected children was determined after in vitro infection with the syncytium-inducing, cytopathic NL4-3 and the non-syncytium-inducing, relatively noncytopathic JR-CSF isolates.

METHODS:

Intracellular staining for the HIV p24gag antigen was combined with cell surface phenotyping to determine thymocyte subsets expressing HIV. Infection was quantitated by polymerase chain reaction on sorted subsets.

RESULTS:

NL4-3 replicated faster and to higher titers and caused a more severe decrease of all CD4-bearing thymocytes than did JR-CSF. In addition, both immature CD1+ and mature CD1-thymocytes expressed NL4-3, whereas only mature CD1-cells expressed JR-CSF. The tropism of NL4-3 for these immature cells suggests a mechanism for a more profound impact on T-cell maturation than that seen with JR-CSF. We also found that thymocytes lacking cell surface CD4 (CD4-CD8- and CD4-CD8+ subsets) expressed virus with either isolate late in infection, when viral levels were high. The CD4-CD8- cells expressing HIV were mature CD3bright T-cell receptor (TCR) alpha/beta bright cells.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results show that NL4-3 can be expressed by thymocytes at immature and mature stages of differentiation and cause severe loss of CD4+ cells. Thus, tropism of a virus for immature cells can affect the capability of the thymus to produce new T lymphocytes leading to a greater impact on development and functions of the immune system. It is proposed that this in vitro model can be used to study pathogenic mechanisms in the thymus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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