Incubation of the human T cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV)-IIIB and HTLV-RF strains of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) with normal seronegative human serum under conditions that allow complement activation resulted in enhancement of infection of the MT2 human T cell line cultured in the presence of low amounts of virus. Infection of MT2 cells was assessed by measuring reverse transcriptase activity in supernatants at day 9 of culture. Complement activation by viral suspensions occurred through the alternative pathway. Opsonization of HTLV-RF viral particles with complement was sufficient to allow a productive infection to occur in cells exposed to suboptimal amounts of virus. Infection of MT2 cells with suboptimal amounts of serum-opsonized HIV-1 was suppressed by blocking the C3dg receptor (CR2, CD21) on MT2 cells with monoclonal anti-CR2 antibody and rabbit F(ab')2 anti-mouse immunoglobulin antibodies. Blocking of the gp120-binding site on CD4 under similar experimental conditions had no inhibitory effect on infection of MT2 cells with opsonized virus. Opsonization of HIV-1 with seronegative serum also resulted in a CR2-mediated enhancement of the infection of normal peripheral blood mononuclear cells and T lymphocytes. These results indicate that complement in the absence of antibody may enhance infection of C3 receptor-bearing T cells with HIV-1, and that the interaction of opsonized virus with the CR2 receptor may result by itself in the infection of target T cells in a CD4- and antibody-independent fashion.

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