The development of a permissive small animal model for the study of human immunodeficiency virus type (HIV)-1 pathogenesis and the testing of antiviral strategies has been hampered by the inability of HIV-1 to infect primary rodent cells productively. In this study, we explored transgenic rats expressing the HIV-1 receptor complex as a susceptible host. Rats transgenic for human CD4 (hCD4) and the human chemokine receptor CCR5 (hCCR5) were generated that express the transgenes in CD4+ T lymphocytes, macrophages, and microglia. In ex vivo cultures, CD4+ T lymphocytes, macrophages, and microglia from hCD4/hCCR5 transgenic rats were highly susceptible to infection by HIV-1 R5 viruses leading to expression of abundant levels of early HIV-1 gene products comparable to those found in human reference cultures. Primary rat macrophages and microglia, but not lymphocytes, from double-transgenic rats could be productively infected by various recombinant and primary R5 strains of HIV-1. Moreover, after systemic challenge with HIV-1, lymphatic organs from hCD4/hCCR5 transgenic rats contained episomal 2-long terminal repeat (LTR) circles, integrated provirus, and early viral gene products, demonstrating susceptibility to HIV-1 in vivo. Transgenic rats also displayed a low-level plasma viremia early in infection. Thus, transgenic rats expressing the appropriate human receptor complex are promising candidates for a small animal model of HIV-1 infection.
- Transgenic rats
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