Reservoirs of infectious HIV-1 persist despite years of combination antiretroviral therapy and make curing HIV-1 infections a major challenge. Most of the proviral DNA resides in CD4(+)T cells. Some of these CD4(+)T cells are clonally expanded; most of the proviruses are defective. It is not known if any of the clonally expanded cells carry replication-competent proviruses. We report that a highly expanded CD4(+) T-cell clone contains an intact provirus. The highly expanded clone produced infectious virus that was detected as persistent plasma viremia during cART in an HIV-1-infected patient who had squamous cell cancer. Cells containing the intact provirus were widely distributed and significantly enriched in cancer metastases. These results show that clonally expanded CD4(+)T cells can be a reservoir of infectious HIV-1.
Keywords: HIV persistence; clonal expansion of infected cells; replication-competent HIV.