Persistent productive HIV infection in EBV-transformed B lymphocytes

J Med Virol. 1989 Jan;27(1):19-24. doi: 10.1002/jmv.1890270105.


The susceptibility to HIV infection of 14 B-cell lines established from five healthy HIV seronegative and from six HIV seropositive subjects by lymphocyte transformation with EBV and/or by lymphocyte cultivation with cyclosporin A was studied. Although the cell lines contained different proportions of CD4-positive cells, as shown by flow cytometry, all of them could be infected with the SF-2 strain of HIV. Infection was blocked by a monoclonal antibody directed against the viral attachment site of the CD4 molecule, even in a line that lacked demonstrable CD4 receptors. B-cell lines with high proportions of CD4-expressing cells produced HIV p24 antigen more rapidly and at higher concentrations than cell lines with low CD4 expression. Although HIV infection resulted in some cytopathic effects, it was possible to cultivate the infected cells for more than 8 months without refeeding the cultures with uninfected cells. Even in long-term cultures, there was a continuous production of infectious HIV, as detected by transfer of culture supernatants to other susceptible cell lines. The production of viral antigens was consistently more pronounced in the B-cell line with the highest CD4 positivity than it was in a permissive T-cell line (HUT-78) infected in the same manner. These results indicate that HIV can chronically and productively infect transformed B cells via interaction with CD4 molecules. Thus it is possible that B cells may constitute a source of infectious virus in HIV-infected EBV-positive individuals.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / analysis
  • B-Lymphocytes / microbiology*
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Cytopathogenic Effect, Viral
  • Flow Cytometry
  • HIV / physiology*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / physiology
  • Humans


  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte