Postintegration HIV-1 infection of cervical epithelial cells mediates contact-dependent productive infection of T cells.
The female genital epithelium plays a protective role against invading pathogens; however, sexual transmission of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) still occurs in healthy women. To model virus-cell interactions in this barrier during sexual transmission, we studied the uptake and infection of ectocervical and endocervical cell lines with cell-free fluorescent protein-expressing recombinant HIV-1 carrying primary transmitted/founder envelope genes. We observed that a subset of both the ectocervical and endocervical epithelial cells become productively infected with cell-free HIV-1 in a CD4-independent manner. In addition, the ability of the semen-derived enhancer of virus infection (SEVI) to enhance virus-epithelial cell interactions was studied. This infection is increased approximately 2-5 fold when inoculation occurs in the presence of SEVI fibrils. Once infected, the epithelial cells are capable of transmitting the virus to target CD4 T cells in coculture in a contact-dependent manner that uses conventional CD4- and coreceptor-dependent entry. The infection of target CD4 T cells only occurs when de novo HIV-1 is produced within the epithelial cells. These findings suggest that a subset of cervical epithelial cells may be actively involved in establishing a systemic HIV infection and should be a target when designing prevention strategies to protect against HIV-1 sexual transmission.
Micsenyi, AM; Zony, C; Alvarez, RA; Durham, ND; Chen, BK; Klotman, ME
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