HIV-1 subtype C syncytium- and non-syncytium-inducing phenotypes and coreceptor usage among Ethiopian patients with AIDS

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Objective: To assess syncytium-inducing (SI) and non-syncytium-inducing (NSI) frequencies, coreceptor usage and gp120V3 sequences of HIV-1 isolates from Ethiopian AIDS patients.Patients:Cross-sectional study on 48 hospitalized AIDS patients (CD4 T cells <200¥106 cell/l) with stage III or IV of the WHO staging system for HIV-1 infection and disease.Methods:Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from all 48 patients were tested by MT-2 assay to determine SI/NSI phenotypes. Lymphocyte subsets were enumerated using Coulter counting and FACScan analysis. Viral load determination used a nucleic acid sequence-based amplification assay (NASBA). Coreceptor usage of HIV-1 biological clones was measured using U87 CD4/chemokine receptor transfectants and phytohemagglutinin-stimulated PBMC of healthy donors with wild-type CCR5 and homozygous mutation CCR5D32 (a 32 base-pair deletion in CCR5). Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction sequencing was performed on the third variable region (V3) of the HIV-1 gene gp120. Sequence alignments were done manually; phylogenetic analyses used PHYLIP software packages.Results: SI viruses were detected for 3/48 (6%) AIDS patients only. Lower mean absolute CD4 counts were determined in patients with SI virus compared with NSI (P=0.04), but no differences in viral load were observed. All patients were found to be infected with HIV-1 subtype C, based on V3 sequencing. NSI biological clones used CCR5 as coreceptor; SI biological clones used CXCR4 and/or CCR5 and/or CCR3.Conclusions:Ethiopian patients with HIV-1 C-subtype AIDS harbour a remarkably low frequency of SI phenotype viruses. Coreceptor usage of these viruses correlates with their biological phenotypes.

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