In this study, we have analyzed the effect of human alpha interferon (IFN-alpha) on a single replication cycle of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection in the lymphocytic cell line CEM-174, which is highly sensitive to the antiviral effects of IFN. Pretreatment of cells with 50 to 500 U of recombinant human IFN-alpha per ml resulted in a marked reduction in viral RNA and protein synthesis. The effect of IFN-alpha was dose dependent and was amplified in multiple infection cycles. IFN-induced inhibition of viral protein synthesis could be detected only when cells were treated with IFN-alpha prior to infection or when IFN-alpha was added up to 10 h postinfection, but not if IFN-alpha was added at the later stages of HIV-1 replication cycle or after the HIV-1 infection was already established. Analysis of the integrated HIV-1 provirus showed a marked decrease in the levels of proviral DNA in IFN-treated cells. Thus, in contrast to the previous studies on established HIV-1 infection in T cells, in which the IFN block appeared to be at the posttranslational level, during de novo infection, IFN-alpha interferes with an early step of HIV-1 replication cycle that occurs prior to the integration of the proviral DNA. These results indicate that the early IFN block of HIV-1 replication, which has been previously observed only in primary marcophages, can also be detected in the IFN-sensitive T cells, indicating that the early IFN block is not limited to macrophages
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