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Curr Biol. 1997 Jul 1;7(7):534-7.

A role for cell migration in the sexual transmission of HIV-1?

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The Population Council, 1230 York Avenue, New York, New York 10021, USA.


The issue of how human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) enters the body following sexual contact has been the subject of considerable controversy. Several possible routes for the initial infection have been suggested [1-6], including the possibility that the transmission is mediated by HIV-1-infected lymphocytes or macrophages in serum and female genital tract secretions, rather than by free virus. We recently reported that HIV-1-infected, activated primary monocytes can migrate between epithelial cells grown in confluent monolayer cultures in vitro [7]. We report here on experiments carried out in mice to test the hypothesis that mononuclear blood cells are capable of migrating through intact epithelia, and thus of carrying a virus into an animal. We placed double-stained, activated mononuclear blood cells into the vaginas of mice; four hours later, numerous double-stained cells were observed in the connective tissue beneath the vaginal epithelium and the iliac lymph nodes of the experimental mice. We speculate that such migration may be involved in the sexual transmission of HIV-1.

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