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Tissue memory CD4+ T cells expressing IL-7 receptor-alpha (CD127) preferentially support latent HIV-1 infection


The primary reservoir for HIV is within memory CD4+ T cells residing within tissues, yet the features that make some of these cells more susceptible than others to infection by HIV is not well understood. Recent studies demonstrated that CCR5-tropic HIV-1 efficiently enters tissue-derived memory CD4+ T cells expressing CD127, the alpha chain of the IL7 receptor, but rarely completes the replication cycle. We now demonstrate that the inability of HIV to replicate in these CD127-expressing cells is not due to post-entry restriction by SAMHD1. Rather, relative to other memory T cell subsets, these cells are highly prone to undergoing latent infection with HIV, as revealed by the high levels of integrated HIV DNA in these cells. Host gene expression profiling revealed that CD127-expressing memory CD4+ T cells are phenotypically distinct from other tissue memory CD4+ T cells, and are defined by a quiescent state with diminished NFκB, NFAT, and Ox40 signaling. However, latently-infected CD127+ cells harbored unspliced HIV transcripts and stimulation of these cells with anti-CD3/CD28 reversed latency. These findings identify a novel subset of memory CD4+ T cells found in tissue and not in blood that are preferentially targeted for latent infection by HIV, and may serve as an important reservoir to target for HIV eradication efforts.

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