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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Dec 20;91(26):12559-63.

Infection of vaginal and colonic epithelial cells by the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 is neutralized by antibodies raised against conserved epitopes in the envelope glycoprotein gp120.

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Department of Clinical Virology, Göteborg University, Sweden.


The rectal and genital tract mucosae are considered to be major sites of entry for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) during sexual contact. We now demonstrate that vaginal epithelial cells can be infected by HIV type 1 (HIV-1) via a mechanism similar to that described for neuroglial cells and, more recently, for colorectal epithelial cells, involving initial interaction of the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein gp120 with a cell-surface glycosphingolipid (sulfated lactosylceramide). A hyperimmune serum against gp120 was able to neutralize HIV-1 infection of vaginal epithelial cells. Site-directed immunization was employed to identify sites on gp120 recognized by antibodies neutralizing HIV-1 infection of vaginal and colonic epithelial cells. Hyperimmune sera were raised in monkeys against a series of 40 overlapping synthetic peptides covering the entire sequence of HIV-1 (HTLV-IIIB) gp120. Antisera raised against five synthetic peptides, corresponding to three relatively conserved regions and to the hypervariable region (V3 loop), efficiently neutralized HIV-1 infection of human vaginal epithelial cells in vitro. Similar results were obtained with the colonic cells. Hyperimmune sera to all five peptides have been shown earlier to neutralize HIV-1 infectivity in CD4+ T cells. These results have obvious implications for the design of mucosal subunit vaccines against sexually transmitted HIV-1 infections.

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