Two cell lines of human T lymphocytes (H9 and CEM) chronically infected with isolates of human or simian immunodeficiency viruses were examined by electron microscopy. Scanning electron microscopy of H9 cells showed characteristic morphological changes in the cells after infection with human T cell lymphotropic virus type III (HTLV-III); these included loss of cell microvilli and their replacement by rounded surface protrusions. Virus particles were present over the whole cell surface, but were more numerous between, rather than on, surface protrusions. In contrast, CEM cells infected with three other isolates of the virus showed little change in morphology compared with uninfected cells; they typically had a single large aggregate of virus particles at the posterior end of the cell. Transmission electron microscopy of sections of infected cells showed budding virus in only a small proportion of cells although many had mature virus particles on their surface. The immature particles released by budding had a ring-like morphology in contrast to the mature virus with its characteristic elongated nucleoid. Surface spikes were rarely seen on sectioned virus particles, but were more obvious on the simian immunodeficiency virus than on human isolates. Negative staining of purified virus preparations showed that the peripheral dense material of immature particles had a striated structure. Surface spikes were not seen by negative staining on either immature or mature virus particles. A third type of smaller particle with surface spikes was found in all negatively stained preparations.

Keyword(s): electron microscopy , HIV and lymphocytes

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