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J Virol. 2009 Apr;83(7):3258-67. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01796-08. Epub 2009 Jan 19.

Macrophages in vaginal but not intestinal mucosa are monocyte-like and permissive to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection.

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  • 1Department of Medicine (Gastroenterology), University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35294, USA.


Mucosal surfaces play a major role in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) transmission and pathogenesis, and yet the role of lamina propria macrophages in mucosal HIV-1 infection has received little investigative attention. We report here that vaginal and intestinal macrophages display distinct phenotype and HIV-1 permissiveness profiles. Vaginal macrophages expressed the innate response receptors CD14, CD89, CD16, CD32, and CD64 and the HIV-1 receptor/coreceptors CD4, CCR5, and CXCR4, similar to monocytes. Consistent with this phenotype, green fluorescent protein-tagged R5 HIV-1 entered macrophages in explanted vaginal mucosa as early as 30 min after inoculation of virus onto the epithelium, and purified vaginal macrophages supported substantial levels of HIV-1 replication by a panel of highly macrophage-tropic R5 viruses. In sharp contrast, intestinal macrophages expressed no detectable, or very low levels of, innate response receptors and HIV-1 receptor/coreceptors and did not support HIV-1 replication, although virus occasionally entered macrophages in intestinal tissue explants. Thus, vaginal, but not intestinal, macrophages are monocyte-like and permissive to R5 HIV-1 after the virus has translocated across the epithelium. These findings suggest that genital and gut macrophages have different roles in mucosal HIV-1 pathogenesis and that vaginal macrophages play a previously underappreciated but potentially important role in mucosal HIV-1 infection in the female genital tract.

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