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Mucosal Immunol. 2010 Sep;3(5):506-22. doi: 10.1038/mi.2010.32. Epub 2010 Jun 23.

Within 1 h, HIV-1 uses viral synapses to enter efficiently the inner, but not outer, foreskin mucosa and engages Langerhans-T cell conjugates.

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  • 1Mucosal Entry of HIV-1 and Mucosal Immunity, Cell Biology and Host Pathogen Interactions Department, Cochin Institute, Universit√© Paris Descartes, CNRS (UMR 8104), Paris, France.


Although circumcision reduces male acquisition of human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) by 60%, the initial mechanisms of HIV-1 transmission at the foreskin remain elusive. We have established two novel and complementary models of the human adult foreskin epithelium, namely, ex vivo foreskin explants and in vitro reconstructed immunocompetent foreskins. In these models, efficient HIV-1 transmission occurs after 1 h of polarized exposure of the inner, but not outer, foreskin to mononuclear cells highly infected with HIV-1, but not to cell-free virus. HIV-1-infected cells form viral synapses with apical foreskin keratinocytes, leading to polarized budding of HIV-1, which is rapidly internalized by Langerhans cells (LCs) in the inner foreskin. In turn, LCs migrate toward the epidermis-dermis interface to form conjugates with T cells, thereby transferring HIV-1. Seminal plasma mixed with cervicovaginal secretions inhibits HIV-1 translocation. This set of results rationalizes at the cellular level the apparent protective outcome of circumcision against HIV-1 acquisition by men.

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