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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53138. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053138. Epub 2013 Jan 7.

Cell-to-cell transmission can overcome multiple donor and target cell barriers imposed on cell-free HIV.

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  • 1Department of Microbial Pathogenesis, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.

Abstract

Virus transmission can occur either by a cell-free mode through the extracellular space or by cell-to-cell transmission involving direct cell-to-cell contact. The factors that determine whether a virus spreads by either pathway are poorly understood. Here, we assessed the relative contribution of cell-free and cell-to-cell transmission to the spreading of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). We demonstrate that HIV can spread by a cell-free pathway if all the steps of the viral replication cycle are efficiently supported in highly permissive cells. However, when the cell-free path was systematically hindered at various steps, HIV transmission became contact-dependent. Cell-to-cell transmission overcame barriers introduced in the donor cell at the level of gene expression and surface retention by the restriction factor tetherin. Moreover, neutralizing antibodies that efficiently inhibit cell-free HIV were less effective against cell-to-cell transmitted virus. HIV cell-to-cell transmission also efficiently infected target T cells that were relatively poorly susceptible to cell-free HIV. Importantly, we demonstrate that the donor and target cell types influence critically the extent by which cell-to-cell transmission can overcome each barrier. Mechanistically, cell-to-cell transmission promoted HIV spread to more cells and infected target cells with a higher proviral content than observed for cell-free virus. Our data demonstrate that the frequently observed contact-dependent spread of HIV is the result of specific features in donor and target cell types, thus offering an explanation for conflicting reports on the extent of cell-to-cell transmission of HIV.

PMID:
23308151
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3538641
Free PMC Article
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