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J Immunol. 2012 Jul 15;189(2):885-96. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1200681. Epub 2012 Jun 11.

HIV-1 infection of human intestinal lamina propria CD4+ T cells in vitro is enhanced by exposure to commensal Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.


Microbial translocation has been linked to systemic immune activation in HIV-1 disease, yet mechanisms by which microbes may contribute to HIV-associated intestinal pathogenesis are poorly understood. Importantly, our understanding of the impact of translocating commensal intestinal bacteria on mucosal-associated T cell responses in the context of ongoing viral replication that occurs early in HIV-1 infection is limited. We previously identified commensal Escherichia coli-reactive Th1 and Th17 cells in normal human intestinal lamina propria (LP). In this article, we established an ex vivo assay to investigate the interactions between Th cell subsets in primary human LP mononuclear cells (LPMCs), commensal E. coli, and CCR5-tropic HIV-1(Bal). Addition of heat-killed E. coli to HIV-1-exposed LPMCs resulted in increases in HIV-1 replication, CD4 T cell activation and infection, and IL-17 and IFN-γ production. Conversely, purified LPS derived from commensal E. coli did not enhance CD4 T cell infection. E. coli exposure induced greater proliferation of LPMC Th17 than Th1 cells. Th17 cells were more permissive to infection than Th1 cells in HIV-1-exposed LPMC cultures, and Th17 cell infection frequencies significantly increased in the presence of E. coli. The E. coli-associated enhancement of infection was dependent on the presence of CD11c(+) LP dendritic cells and, in part, on MHC class II-restricted Ag presentation. These results highlight a potential role for translocating microbes in impacting mucosal HIV-1 pathogenesis during early infection by increasing HIV-1 replication and infection of intestinal Th1 and Th17 cells.

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