Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can infect cells and take a quiescent and nonexpressive state called latency. In this study, we report insights provided by label-free, gradient light interference microscopy (GLIM) about the changes in dry mass, diameter, and dry mass density associated with infected cells that occur upon reactivation. We discovered that the mean cell dry mass and mean diameter of latently infected cells treated with reactivating drug, TNF-α, are higher for latent cells that reactivate than those of the cells that did not reactivate. Cells with mean dry mass and diameter less than approximately 10 pg and 8 μm, respectively, remain exclusively in the latent state. Also, cells with mean dry mass greater than approximately 28-30 pg and mean diameter greater than 11–12 μm have a higher probability of reactivating. This study is significant as it presents a new label-free approach to quantify latent reactivation of a virus in single cells.
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