To detect the major sites of viral replication in immunodeficiency virus-infected individuals, we quantified proviral DNA and infectious viruses using quantitative PCR and a plaque assay, respectively, in various tissues of SHIVKU-2-infected monkeys in the early and AIDS stages of infection. Compared the quantity of infectious virus among PBMC and the lymphoid tissues, the mesenteric lymph node had the largest number of infectious viruses at the AIDS stage more than at the early stage of infection. These results suggested that the gastrointestinal tract was a major site of viral replication. In the brain, proviral DNA was detected at the early and AIDS stage of infection, but infectious viruses were detected at only the AIDS stage. Moreover, we analyzed the nucleotide sequences of the env V3 region in infectious virus clones isolated from each plaque. The viruses in the lymphoid tissues of the monkey that developed AIDS diverged from the inoculated virus and had the same three amino acid substitutions. However, the viruses in the brain were almost identical to the inoculated virus, suggesting that the virus entered the brain early after infection and persisted without replication and genetic diversion until the AIDS stage.
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