Ex vivo human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection of human lymphoid tissue recapitulates some aspects of in vivo HIV-1 infection, including a severe depletion of CD4+ T cells and suppression of humoral immune responses to recall antigens or to polyclonal stimuli. These effects are induced by infection with X4 HIV-1 variants, whereas infection with R5 variants results in only mild depletion of CD4+ T cells and no suppression of immune responses. To study the mechanisms of suppression of immune responses in this ex vivo system, we used aldrithiol-2 (AT-2)-inactivated virions that have functional envelope glycoproteins but are not infectious and do not deplete CD4+ T cells in human lymphoid tissues ex vivo. Nevertheless, AT-2-inactivated X4 (but not R5) HIV-1 virions, even with only a brief exposure, inhibit antibody responses in human lymphoid tissue ex vivo, similarly to infectious virus. This phenomenon is mediated by soluble immunosuppressive factor(s) secreted by tissue exposed to virus.
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