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Front Immunol. 2018 Feb 19;9:260. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.00260. eCollection 2018.

Mechanisms for Cell-to-Cell Transmission of HIV-1.

Bracq L1,2,3,4,5, Xie M1,2,3,5, Benichou S1,2,3,4,5, Bouchet J1,2,3,5.

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Inserm U1016, Institut Cochin, Paris, France.
CNRS, UMR8104, Paris, France.
Université Paris-Descartes, Sorbonne Paris-Cité, Paris, France.
International Associated Laboratory (LIA VirHost), Institut Pasteur Shanghai-Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China.
International Associated Laboratory (LIA VirHost), CNRS, Université Paris-Descartes, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


While HIV-1 infection of target cells with cell-free viral particles has been largely documented, intercellular transmission through direct cell-to-cell contact may be a predominant mode of propagation in host. To spread, HIV-1 infects cells of the immune system and takes advantage of their specific particularities and functions. Subversion of intercellular communication allows to improve HIV-1 replication through a multiplicity of intercellular structures and membrane protrusions, like tunneling nanotubes, filopodia, or lamellipodia-like structures involved in the formation of the virological synapse. Other features of immune cells, like the immunological synapse or the phagocytosis of infected cells are hijacked by HIV-1 and used as gateways to infect target cells. Finally, HIV-1 reuses its fusogenic capacity to provoke fusion between infected donor cells and target cells, and to form infected syncytia with high capacity of viral production and improved capacities of motility or survival. All these modes of cell-to-cell transfer are now considered as viral mechanisms to escape immune system and antiretroviral therapies, and could be involved in the establishment of persistent virus reservoirs in different host tissues.


HIV-1; T cells; cell-to-cell transfer; dendritic cells; macrophages

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