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To investigate the mechanism and functional significance of infection of CD8+ lymphocytes by human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) in vivo, we determined frequencies of infection, proviral conformation, and genetic relationships between HIV-1 variants infecting naive (CD45RA+) and memory (CD45RO+) peripheral blood CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes. Infection of CD3+ CD8+ CD45RA+ cells was detected in 9 of 16 study subjects at frequencies ranging from 30 to 1,400 proviral copies/10(6) cells, more frequently than CD3+ CD8+ lymphocytes expressing the RO isoform of CD45 (n = 2, 70 and 260 copies /10(6) cells). In agreement with previous studies, there was no evidence for a similar preferential infection of CD4+ naive lymphocytes. Proviral sequences in both CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocyte subsets were complete, as assessed by quantitation using primers from the long terminal repeat region spanning the tRNA primer binding site. In six of the seven study subjects investigated, variants infecting CD8+ lymphocytes were partially or completely genetically distinct in the V3 region from those recovered from CD4+ lymphocytes and showed a greater degree of compartmentalization than observed between naive and memory subsets of CD4+ lymphocytes. In two study subjects, arginine substitutions at position 306, associated with use of the chemokine coreceptor CXCR4, were preferentially found in CD4 lymphocytes. These population differences may have originated through different times of infection rather than necessarily indicating a difference in their biological properties. The preferential distribution of HIV-1 in naive CD8+ lymphocytes indeed suggests that infection occurred early in T-lymphocyte ontogeny, such as during maturation in the thymus. Destruction of cells destined to become CD8+ lymphocytes may be a major factor in the decline in CD8+ lymphocyte frequencies and function on disease progression and may contribute directly to the observed immunodeficiency in AIDS.

Original publication




Journal article


J Virol

Publication Date





4091 - 4102


Amino Acid Sequence, Base Sequence, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, DNA, Viral, HIV Infections, HIV Long Terminal Repeat, HIV-1, Humans, Immunologic Memory, Leukocyte Common Antigens, Molecular Sequence Data, Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase, Non-Receptor Type 1, Proviruses