Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) eradication is prevented by the establishment on infection of cellular HIV-1 reservoirs that are not fully characterized, especially in genital mucosal tissues (the main HIV-1 entry portal on sexual transmission). Here, we show, using penile tissues from HIV-1-infected individuals under suppressive combination antiretroviral therapy, that urethral macrophages contain integrated HIV-1 DNA, RNA, proteins and intact virions in virus-containing compartment-like structures, whereas viral components remain undetectable in urethral T cells. Moreover, urethral cells specifically release replication-competent infectious HIV-1 following reactivation with the macrophage activator lipopolysaccharide, while the T-cell activator phytohaemagglutinin is ineffective. HIV-1 urethral reservoirs localize preferentially in a subset of polarized macrophages that highly expresses the interleukin-1 receptor, CD206 and interleukin-4 receptor, but not CD163. To our knowledge, these results are the first evidence that human urethral tissue macrophages constitute a principal HIV-1 reservoir. Such findings are determinant for therapeutic strategies aimed at HIV-1 eradication.
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The authors thank J. P. Wolf (Reproductive Biology, Hôpital Cochin, AP-HP, Paris, France) for helpful discussion. This study was supported by grants from l’Agence Nationale de Recherches sur le Sida et les Hépatites Virales (ANRS) to M.B. (ANRS-2014AO21038) and A.H. (ANRS-2016AO11023), and from the French Government’s Investissement d’Avenir programme, Laboratoire d’Excellence ‘Integrative Biology of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (ANR-10-LABX-62-IBEID) to A.H. C.-A.D., F.R. and J.-P.J. were supported by ANRS. F.R. was supported by SIDACTION. L.X. was supported by the China Scholarship Council.