Defective accessory genes in a human immunodeficiency virus type 1-infected long-term survivor lacking recoverable virus

Nelson L. Michael*, George Chang, Lisa A. D'Arcy, Philip K. Ehrenberg, Roberto Mariani, Michael P. Busch, Deborah L. Birx, David H. Schwartz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


We have been studying a patient who acquired human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection via a blood transfusion 13 years ago. She has remained asymptomatic since that time. The blood donor and two other recipients have all died of AIDS. Although this patient has shown persistently strong seroreactivity to HIV type 1 (HIV-1) antigens by Western blot (immunoblot), she has been continually HIV culture negative in results from multiple laboratories over the last 6 years and has a very low viral burden. Her CD4+ T-cell count has fluctuated around a mean of 399 cells per μl, with little change in lymphocyte subset percentages. Strong cellular immune responses to HIV-1 epitopes by this patient have been demonstrated. We now report the results of an intensive molecular genetic analysis of the HIV-1 proviral quasispecies from this patient sampled over 5 years. Long terminal repeat region sequences supported the argument for normal basal and Tat-mediated promoter activities. Sequential sequencing of the nef gene revealed a low frequency (8.3%) of defective genes and a striking lack of sequence evolution. Functional analysis of predominant nef genes by both a cell surface CD4 downregulation and a viral infectivity complementation assay showed wild-type function. In contrast, sequential analysis of an amplicon containing the vif, vpr, vpu, tat1, and rev1 genes revealed the presence of inactivating mutations in 64% of the clones. These data suggest that this patient, initially infected with a virulent swarm of HIV-1, is presently infected with a more-attenuated viral quasispecies as a result of effective host immunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4228-4236
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1995
Externally publishedYes


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