Promonocytic (U1) and T lymphocytic (ACH-2) cell lines chronically infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) constitutively express low levels of virus, but expression can be induced by phorbol esters and cytokines. Whereas ACH-2 cells produce infectious virions, U1 cells produce defective, noninfectious particles. Although 3′-azido-3′-deoxythimidine (AZT) prevented acute HIV infection of susceptible cells, it did not prevent the induction of HIV expression in the infected cell lines. In contrast, interferon alpha (IFN-α) inhibited the release of reverse transcriptase and viral antigens into the culture supernatant after phorbol ester stimulation of both cell lines. Further, IFN-α suppressed the production or release (or both) of whole HIV virions, but had no effect on the amount of cell-associated viral proteins. Also, after phorbol ester stimulation of ACH-2 cells, IFN-α reduced the number of infectious viral particles secreted into the culture supernatant, but had no effect on the infectivity of cell-associated virus. These findings lend support to the combined use of antiviral agents that have action at both the early (AZT) and the late (IFN-α) stages of HIV replication.
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