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Mucosal Immunol. 2010 Jul;3(4):410-8. doi: 10.1038/mi.2010.18. Epub 2010 Apr 21.

Enhanced cellular responses and environmental sampling within inner foreskin explants: implications for the foreskin's role in HIV transmission.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


The decrease in HIV acquisition after circumcision suggests a role for the foreskin in HIV transmission. However, the mechanism leading to protection remains undefined. Using tissue explant cultures we found that Langerhans cells (LCs) in foreskin alter their cellular protein expression in response to external stimuli. Furthermore, we observe that upon treatment with TNF-alpha, tissue-resident LCs became activated and that stimulatory cytokines can specifically cause an influx of CD4+ T-cells into the epithelial layer. Importantly, both of these changes are significant in the inner, but not outer, foreskin. In addition, we find that LCs in the inner foreskin have increased ability to sample environmental proteins. These results suggest differences in permeability between the inner and outer foreskin and indicate that HIV target cells in the inner foreskin have increased interaction with external factors. This increased responsiveness and sampling provides novel insights into the underlying mechanism of how circumcision can decrease HIV transmission.

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