Individuals infected with HIV may be asymptomatic for years before progressing to overt AIDS. Since HIV can latently infect monocytoid cell lines, we examined whether HIV latency occurs in monocytes in vivo. Freshly isolated monocytes from asymptomatic seropositive individuals examined before and after culture were positive for HIV DNA, but not RNA, as measured by polymerase chain reaction, showing that HIV latency occurs in monocytes in vivo. Coculture of these latently infected monocytes with Con A-activated T cells from HIV-negative normal donors stimulated 90% of the patients' samples and latently infected THP-1 to produce infectious virus. Neither Con A, resting T cells, nor T cell supernatants induced virus. Plasma membranes from activated T cells stimulated HIV production, suggesting cell contact induces factor(s) in monocytes to overcome latency. Thus, monocytes in AIDS patients harbor latent HIV inducible during an immune response, leading to T cell infection and viral-induced pathology.
J A Mikovits, N C Lohrey, R Schulof, J Courtless, F W Ruscetti