The intestinal mucosa contains most of the total lymphocyte pool and plays an important role in viral transmission, but only slight attention has been given to the immunological and virological aspects of human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) infection at this site. In this study, before initiating or changing antiretroviral therapy, paired blood samples and rectal biopsies (RB) were obtained from 26 consecutive HIV-infected subjects. HIV-1 isolation and biological characterization, DNA, and HIV-1 RNA titration were assessed, as were in vitro tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-beta (IL-1beta) spontaneous production. The rate of HIV-1 isolation from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and RBs was 75% and 58%, respectively. All RB-derived isolates were nonsyncytium inducing (NSI), independent of the phenotype of blood-derived isolates. Proviral DNA and detectable HIV-1 RNA levels were measured in 100% and 77% of RBs, respectively. A statistical correlation was observed between HIV-1 DNA and HIV-1 RNA levels in rectal mucosa (P = 0.0075), whereas no correlation was found between these levels in blood samples (P > 0.05). Antiretroviral treatment did not seem to influence HIV-1 detection in RBs. Higher levels of in vitro proinflammmatory cytokine production were found in the RBs of most infected patients when compared with healthy controls. Therefore, the rectal mucosa is an important HIV-1 reservoir that demonstrates a discordant viral evolution with respect to blood. Both the virus type and the mucosa pathway of immunoactive substances might have important implications for therapeutic decision-making and monitoring and could influence the bidirectional transmission of HIV-1 in mucosal surfaces.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.