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The source and dynamics of persistent HIV-1 during long-term combinational antiretroviral therapy (cART) are critical to understanding the barriers to curing HIV-1 infection. To address this issue, we isolated and genetically characterized HIV-1 DNA from naïve and memory T cells from peripheral blood and gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) from eight patients after 4-12 y of suppressive cART. Our detailed analysis of these eight patients indicates that persistent HIV-1 in peripheral blood and GALT is found primarily in memory CD4(+) T cells [CD45RO(+)/CD27((+/-))]. The HIV-1 infection frequency of CD4(+) T cells from peripheral blood and GALT was higher in patients who initiated treatment during chronic compared with acute/early infection, indicating that early initiation of therapy results in lower HIV-1 reservoir size in blood and gut. Phylogenetic analysis revealed an HIV-1 genetic change between RNA sequences isolated before initiation of cART and intracellular HIV-1 sequences from the T-cell subsets after 4-12 y of suppressive cART in four of the eight patients. However, evolutionary rate analyses estimated no greater than three nucleotide substitutions per gene region analyzed during all of the 4-12 y of suppressive therapy. We also identified a clearly replication-incompetent viral sequence in multiple memory T cells in one patient, strongly supporting asynchronous cell replication of a cell containing integrated HIV-1 DNA as the source. This study indicates that persistence of a remarkably stable population of infected memory cells will be the primary barrier to a cure, and, with little evidence of viral replication, this population could be maintained by homeostatic cell proliferation or other processes.

Original publication

DOI

10.1073/pnas.1308313110

Type

Journal article

Journal

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date

17/12/2013

Volume

110

Pages

E4987 - E4996

Keywords

Anti-Retroviral Agents, CD4 Lymphocyte Count, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Carrier State, DNA, Viral, Female, Genome, Viral, HIV Infections, HIV-1, Humans, Immunologic Memory, Lymphoid Tissue, Male, Mutation, Phylogeny, Time Factors