Pathogenesis and natural history of HIV infection.
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a human retrovirus. The virus infects cells of the immune system by attachment of a glycoprotein viral envelope (gp 120) to a molecule expressed on human helper T cells called CD4. The fusion of the virus envelope protein to its specific receptor allows HIV to penetrate the T cell. Once inside the cell viral RNA is transcribed into double-stranded DNA by an enzyme unique to retroviruses, reverse transcriptase. The double-stranded, proviral DNA travels to the nucleus of the cell and is integrated into the infected cell's chromosomal DNA where it may remain latent for years. As a result of triggers that are poorly understood, viral replication becomes activated and proviral DNA is transcribed back into genomic RNA and RNA that is translated into viral proteins, both of which are packaged and bud from the infected T cell as infectious virus. The viral life cycle orchestrates the natural history of clinical HIV infection. Three to four weeks following exposure to HIV there is a phase of rapid viral replication, high levels of plasma viremia, and development of a "flue like" illness. Four to six weeks after exposure, during this stage of acute infection, antibodies to HIV core (p24) and envelope (gp 160, gp 120, gp41) proteins appear. Six to eight weeks after exposure symptoms disappear and plasma viremia subsides, presumably due to clearance by the immune system.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
Sleasman, JW; Goodenow, MM
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