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HIV-1 Genomes Are Enriched in Memory CD4+ T-Cells with Short Half-Lives


Future HIV-1 curative therapies require a thorough understanding of the distribution of genetically-intact HIV-1 within T-cell subsets during antiretroviral therapy (ART) and the cellular mechanisms that maintain this reservoir. Therefore, we sequenced near-full-length HIV-1 genomes and identified genetically-intact and genetically-defective genomes from resting naive, stem-cell memory, central memory, transitional memory, effector memory, and terminally-differentiated CD4+ T-cells with known cellular half-lives from 11 participants on ART. We find that a higher infection frequency with any HIV-1 genome was significantly associated with a shorter cellular half-life, such as transitional and effector memory cells. A similar enrichment of genetically-intact provirus was observed in these cells with relatively shorter half-lives. We found that effector memory and terminally-differentiated cells also had significantly higher levels of expansions of genetically-identical sequences, while only transitional and effector memory cells contained genetically-intact proviruses that were part of a cluster of identical sequences. Expansions of identical sequences were used to infer cellular proliferation from clonal expansion. Altogether, this indicates that specific cellular mechanisms such as short half-life and proliferative potential contribute to the persistence of genetically-intact HIV-1. IMPORTANCE The design of future HIV-1 curative therapies requires a more thorough understanding of the distribution of genetically-intact HIV-1 within T-cell subsets as well as the cellular mechanisms that maintain this reservoir. These genetically-intact and presumably replication-competent proviruses make up the latent HIV-1 reservoir. Our investigations into the possible cellular mechanisms maintaining the HIV-1 reservoir in different T-cell subsets have revealed a link between the half-lives of T-cells and the level of proviruses they contain. Taken together, we believe our study shows that more differentiated and proliferative cells, such as transitional and effector memory T-cells, contain the highest levels of genetically-intact proviruses, and the rapid turnover rate of these cells contributes to the expansion of genetically-intact proviruses within them. Therefore, our study delivers an in-depth assessment of the cellular mechanisms, such as cellular proliferation and half-life, that contribute to and maintain the latent HIV-1 reservoir.

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