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J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2004 Dec 1;37(4):1445-53.

Ethanol stimulation of HIV infection of oral epithelial cells.

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Division of Oral Biology and Medicine and University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Dental Institute, UCLA School of Dentistry, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Oral mucosal cells can be infected by exogenous HIV during receptive oral sex or breast-feeding. The risk of oral mucosal infection depends on the infection efficiency of the HIV strains present in the oral cavity, the viral titers, and the defense mechanisms in the oral cavity environment. It is expected that alcohol can weaken the host defense mechanism against HIV infection in the oral cavity. We modified an HIV strain, NL4-3, by inserting the enhanced green fluorescent protein gene and used this virus to infect oral epithelial cells obtained from patients. Various concentrations of ethanol (0%-4%) were added to the infected cells. HIV-infected cells were detected by fluorescent microscopy or fluorescence-activated cell sorting. We found that ethanol significantly increases HIV infection of primary oral epithelial cells (POEs). POEs pretreated with 4% ethanol for less than 10 minutes demonstrated 3- to 6-fold higher susceptibility to infection by the CXCR-4 HIV strain NL4-3. Our studies also demonstrated that HIV infects POEs through a gp120-independent mechanism. We tested an HIV CCR5 strain, JRCSF, and also found its infection efficiency to be stimulated by alcohol. Our results indicate that in cell culture conditions, the ranges of concentrations of alcohol that are commercially available are able to stimulate the infection efficiency of HIV in POEs.

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