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PLoS One. 2013 Oct 11;8(10):e76367. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076367. eCollection 2013.

Viral RNA levels and env variants in semen and tissues of mature male rhesus macaques infected with SIV by penile inoculation.

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Center for Comparative Medicine, University of California Davis, Davis, California, United States of America ; California National Primate Research Center, University of California Davis, Davis, California, United States of America.


HIV is shed in semen but the anatomic site of virus entry into the genital secretions is unknown. We determined viral RNA (vRNA) levels and the envelope gene sequence in the SIVmac 251 viral populations in the genital tract and semen of 5 adult male rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) that were infected after experimental penile SIV infection. Paired blood and semen samples were collected from 1-9 weeks after infection and the monkeys were necropsied eleven weeks after infection. The axillary lymph nodes, testes, epididymis, prostate, and seminal vesicles were collected and vRNA levels and single-genome analysis of the SIVmac251 env variants was performed. At the time of semen collection, blood vRNA levels were between 3.09 and 7.85 log10 vRNA copies/ml plasma. SIV RNA was found in the axillary lymph nodes of all five monkeys and in 3 of 5 monkeys, all tissues examined were vRNA positive. In these 3 monkeys, vRNA levels (log10 SIVgag copies/ug of total tissue RNA) in the axillary lymph node (6.48 ± 0.50) were significantly higher than in the genital tract tissues: testis (3.67 ± 2.16; p<0.05), epididymis (3.08 ± 1.19; p<0.0001), prostate (3.36 ± 1.30; p<0.01), and seminal vesicle (2.67 ± 1.50; p<0.0001). Comparison of the SIVmac251 env viral populations in blood plasma, systemic lymph node, and genital tract tissues was performed in two of the macaques. Visual inspection of the Neighbor-Joining phylograms revealed that in both animals, all the sequences were generally distributed evenly among all tissue compartments. Importantly, viral populations in the genital tissues were not distinct from those in the systemic tissues. Our findings demonstrate striking similarity in the viral populations in the blood and male genital tract tissues within 3 months of penile SIV transmission.

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