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Genetic recombination contributes to the diversity of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1). Productive HIV-1 recombination is, however, dependent on both the number of HIV-1 genomes per infected cell and the genetic relationship between these viral genomes. A detailed analysis of the number of proviruses and their genetic relationship in infected cells isolated from peripheral blood and tissue compartments is therefore important for understanding HIV-1 recombination, genetic diversity and the dynamics of HIV-1 infection. To address these issues, we used a previously developed single-cell sequencing technique to quantify and genetically characterize individual HIV-1 DNA molecules from single cells in lymph node tissue and peripheral blood. Analysis of memory and naïve CD4(+) T cells from paired lymph node and peripheral blood samples from five untreated chronically infected patients revealed that the majority of these HIV-1-infected cells (>90%) contain only one copy of HIV-1 DNA, implying a limited potential for productive recombination in virus produced by these cells in these two compartments. Phylogenetic analysis revealed genetic similarity of HIV-1 DNA in memory and naïve CD4(+) T-cells from lymph node, peripheral blood and HIV-1 RNA from plasma, implying exchange of virus and/or infected cells between these compartments in untreated chronic infection.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS Pathog

Publication Date





Adult, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Chronic Disease, DNA, Viral, Genome, Viral, HIV Infections, HIV-1, Humans, Lymph Nodes, Male, Phylogeny