It has previously been demonstrated that there are two distinct mechanisms for genetic resistance to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) conferred by the CCR5Δ32 gene: the loss of wild-type CCR5 surface expression and the generation of CCR5Δ32 protein, which interacts with CXCR4. To analyse the protective effects of long-term expression of the CCR5Δ32 protein, recombinant lentiviral vectors were used to deliver the CCR5Δ32 gene into human cell lines and primary peripheral blood mononuclear cells that had been immortalized by human T-cell leukemia virus type 1. Blasticidin S-resistant cell lines expressing the lentivirus-encoded CCR5Δ32 showed a significant reduction in HIV-1 Env-mediated fusion assays. It was shown that CD4+ T lymphocytes expressing the lentivirus-encoded CCR5Δ32 gene were highly resistant to infection by a primary but not by a laboratory-adapted X4 strain, suggesting different infectivity requirements. In contrast to previous studies that analysed the CCR5Δ32 protective effects in a transient expression system, this study showed that long-term expression of CCR5Δ32 conferred resistance to HIV-1 despite cell-surface expression of the HIV co-receptors. The results suggest an additional unknown mechanism for generating the CCR5Δ32 resistance phenotype and support the hypothesis that the CCR5Δ32 protein acts as an HIV-suppressive factor by altering the stoichiometry of the molecules involved in HIV-1 entry. The lentiviral-CCR5Δ32 vectors offer a method of generating HIV-resistant cells by delivery of the CCR5Δ32 gene that may be useful for stem cell- or T-cell-based gene therapy for HIV-1 infection.
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