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The first steps of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection go through the engagement of HIV envelope (Env) with CD4 and coreceptors (CXCR4 or CCR5) to mediate viral membrane fusion between the virus and the host. New approaches are still needed to better define both the molecular mechanistic underpinnings of this process but also the point of fusion and its kinetics. Here, we have developed a new method able to detect and quantify HIV-1 fusion in single live cells. We present a new approach that employs fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) to detect Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) when using the β-lactamase (BlaM) assay. This novel approach allows comparing different populations of single cells regardless the concentration of CCF2-AM FRET reporter in each cell, and more importantly, is able to determine the relative amount of viruses internalized per cell. We have applied this approach in both reporter TZM-bl cells and primary T cell lymphocytes.

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Division of Structural Biology, University of Oxford, Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics, Headington, Oxford OX3 7BN, UK.