eLife 2017 02 156() doi 10.7554/eLife.23282
Dissemination of HIV-1 throughout lymphoid tissues leads to systemic virus spread following infection. We combined tissue clearing, 3D-immunofluorescence, and electron tomography (ET) to longitudinally assess early HIV-1 spread in lymphoid tissues in humanized mice. Immunofluorescence revealed peak infection density in gut at 10-12 days post-infection when blood viral loads were low. Human CD4+ T-cells and HIV-1-infected cells localized predominantly to crypts and the lower third of intestinal villi. Free virions and infected cells were not readily detectable by ET at 5-days post-infection, whereas HIV-1-infected cells surrounded by pools of free virions were present in ~10% of intestinal crypts by 10-12 days. ET of spleen revealed thousands of virions released by individual cells and discreet cytoplasmic densities near sites of prolific virus production. These studies highlight the importance of multiscale imaging of HIV-1-infected tissues and are adaptable to other animal models and human patient samples.