HIV Persistence in Adipose Tissue Reservoirs

Jacob Couturier, Dorothy E. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: The purpose of this review is to examine the evidence describing adipose tissue as a reservoir for HIV-1 and how this often expansive anatomic compartment contributes to HIV persistence. Recent Findings: Memory CD4 T cells and macrophages, the major host cells for HIV, accumulate in adipose tissue during HIV/SIV infection of humans and rhesus macaques. Whereas HIV and SIV proviral DNA is detectable in CD4 T cells of multiple fat depots in virtually all infected humans and monkeys examined, viral RNA is less frequently detected, and infected macrophages may be less prevalent in adipose tissue. However, based on viral outgrowth assays, adipose-resident CD4 T cells are latently infected with virus that is replication-competent and infectious. Additionally, adipocytes interact with CD4 T cells and macrophages to promote immune cell activation and inflammation which may be supportive for HIV persistence. Antiviral effector cells, such as CD8 T cells and NK/NKT cells, are abundant in adipose tissue during HIV/SIV infection and typically exceed CD4 T cells, whereas B cells are largely absent from adipose tissue of humans and monkeys. Additionally, CD8 T cells in adipose tissue of HIV patients are activated and have a late differentiated phenotype, with unique TCR clonotypes of less diversity relative to blood CD8 T cells. With respect to the distribution of antiretroviral drugs in adipose tissue, data is limited, but there may be class-specific penetration of fat depots. Summary: The trafficking of infected immune cells within adipose tissues is a common event during HIV/SIV infection of humans and monkeys, but the virus may be mostly transcriptionally dormant. Viral replication may occur less in adipose tissue compared to other major reservoirs, such as lymphoid tissue, but replication competence and infectiousness of adipose latent virus are comparable to other tissues. Due to the ubiquitous nature of adipose tissue, inflammatory interactions among adipocytes and CD4 T cells and macrophages, and selective distribution of antiretroviral drugs, the sequestration of infected immune cells within fat depots likely represents a major challenge for cure efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-71
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent HIV/AIDS Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Adipose tissue
  • Antiretroviral therapy
  • CD4 T cells
  • HIV reservoir
  • Immunometabolism
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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