A major obstacle in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) eradication is the ability of the virus to remain latent in a subpopulation of the cells it infects. Latently infected cells can escape the viral immune response and persist for long periods of time, despite the presence of successful highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Given the appropriate stimulus, latently infected cells can reactivate and start producing infectious virions. The susceptibility of these cell populations to HIV-1, their life span, their proliferative capacity, and their ability to periodically produce infectious virus subsequent to alterations in cellular physiology and/or immunologic controls are critical issues which determine the contribution of these cells to viral persistence. Memory CD4+ T cells due to the long life span, which may be several years, and their ability to reactivate upon encounter with their cognate antigen or other stimulation, are considered a critical reservoir for maintenance of latent HIV-1 proviral DNA. Cells of the monocyte-macrophage lineage, which originate in the bone marrow (BM), are of particular importance in HIV-1 persistence due to their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and spread HIV-1 infection in the immunoprivileged central nervous system (CNS). Hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs) are also a potential HIV-1 reservoir, as several studies have shown that CD34+ HPCs carrying proviral DNA can be found in vivo in a subpopulation of HIV-1-infected patients. The ability of HPCs to proliferate and potentially generate clonal populations of infected cells of the monocyte-macrophage lineage may be crucial in HIV-1 dissemination. The contribution of these and other cell populations in HIV-1 persistence, as well as the possible strategies to eliminate latently infected cells are critically examined in this review.
Keywords: HIV-1, latency, eradication, persistence, reservoir, reactivation
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