Background: Identifying biomarkers for cells harboring replication-competent HIV is a major research priority. Recently, there have been mixed reports addressing the possibility that CD32-expressing T cells are enriched for HIV. There is growing evidence that CD32 expression increases with cellular activation that may be related to, but not necessarily specific for, infection with HIV. However, the relationship of CD32 expression to HIV-infection in subtypes of tissue-resident leukocytes is unclear.
Methods: First, we used duplex chromogenic in situ hybridization to identify cells actively transcribing RNA for both CD32 and HIV on human gut tissues. Then we performed multiplexed immunofluorescence and in situ hybridization (mIFISH) on sections from the same tissues to determine the phenotype of individual cells co-expressing HIV-RNA and CD32-RNA.
Results: HIV-RNA+ cells were more abundant in tissues from viremic individuals than in those receiving suppressive anti-retroviral therapy (ART). However, staining by both methods indicated that a higher proportion of HIV-RNA+ cells co-expressed CD32-RNA in ART-suppressed individuals than in those with viremia. The majority of HIV-RNA+ cells were CD3+.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that the transcription of CD32-RNA is correlated with HIV transcriptional activity in CD3+ cells found within human gut tissue. Whether or not up-regulation of CD32-RNA is a direct result of HIV transcription or more global T-cell activation remains unclear.
Keywords: CD32; HIV; HIV reservoirs; HIV-RNA; gut tissue; in situ hybridization.