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OBJECTIVE: To determine the relative contribution of alveolar macrophages, peripheral blood monocytes (PBM) and peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) from HIV-infected individuals to HIV-1 viral load.
METHODS: Alveolar macrophages were obtained by flexible bronchoscopy, and PBM and PBL by venipuncture from HIV-1-infected individuals. Alveolar macrophages and PBM were purified using immunomagnetic bead selection to deplete CD3+ and CD19+ cells from bronchoalveolar lavage and peripheral blood mononuclear cells, respectively. DNA and mRNA were extracted and gag copy number quantified using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and reverse transcriptase PCR. The titres of infectious cell-associated HIV-1 in cells were determined by the endpoint dilution coculture technique for alveolar macrophages and PBM.
RESULTS: Alveolar macrophages and PBM from HIV-1-infected subjects (n=11) contained equivalent concentrations of HIV-1 DNA and HIV-1 mRNA as determined by PCR and reverse transcriptase PCR, respectively. Antiretroviral therapy was associated with reduced viral DNA concentrations in alveolar macrophages but not in PBM. PBL had a significantly higher level of proviral DNA and mRNA than alveolar macrophages or PBM.
CONCLUSIONS: Although alveolar macrophages infected in vitro are more permissive for HIV-1 replication than PBM, this difference could not be demonstrated in vivo.