Generation of HIV latency during thymopoiesis

Nat Med. 2001 Apr;7(4):459-64. doi: 10.1038/86531.


The use of combination antiretroviral therapy results in a substantial reduction in viremia, a rebound of CD4+ T cells and increased survival for HIV-infected individuals. However, this treatment does not result in the total eradication of HIV. Rather, the virus is thought to remain latent in a subset of cells, where it avoids elimination by the immune system. In this state the virus is capable of reactivation of productive infection following cessation of therapy. These latently infected cells are very few in number and it has thus been difficult to determine their origin and to study the molecular nature of the latent viral genome. HIV replication is linked to cellular gene transcription and requires target cell activation. Therefore, should an activated, infected cell become transcriptionally inactive prior to cytopathic effects, the viral genome might be maintained in a latent state. We used the SCID-hu (Thy/Liv) mouse model to establish that activation-inducible HIV can be generated at high frequency during thymopoiesis, a process where previously activated cells mature towards quiescence. Moreover, we showed that these cells can be exported into the periphery where the virus remains latent until T-cell receptor stimulation, indicating that the thymus might be a source of latent HIV in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression
  • HIV / genetics
  • HIV / isolation & purification
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / pathology
  • HIV Infections / virology*
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Proviruses / genetics
  • Proviruses / isolation & purification
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Thymus Gland / immunology
  • Thymus Gland / pathology
  • Thymus Gland / virology*


  • Cytokines
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Viral
  • RNA, Viral