Cells Commonly Found in Mucosal Tissues Affect the Ability of HIV to Infect Immune Cells

Submitted by UCSF Urology on February 16, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Nadia Roan, PhD, Assistant Professor of Urology Dr Nadia Roanat UCSF and a Visiting Investigator with the Gladstone Institutes is corresponding and senior author on a paper published in PLOS Pathogens which demonstrated that one of the most abundant cells of mucosal tissues, stromal fibroblasts, potently increase the efficiency by which HIV infects their primary targets: helper T cells.

The findings of this study shed new light on what occurs during HIV transmission, by suggesting that HIV hijacks mucosal stromal fibroblasts to promote its spread.

“The virus achieves this not by infecting the fibroblasts and using them as virus-producing factories,” explains Dr. Roan, “but rather by using them to increase the ability of HIV to infect other types of cells.” Because the extent to which the fibroblasts promote HIV infection can be very high (infection can be up to 100 times more efficient in the presence of these cells), blocking this feature of the fibroblasts may be useful as a novel way to limit HIV transmission. 

Although the paper’s focus was on stromal fibroblasts from the female reproductive tract, Dr. Roan and colleagues also demonstrated that fibroblasts from foreskin, male urethra, and intestines all significantly increase HIV infection of cells. Therefore, this phenomenon is also relevant for HIV transmission to men. 

Click here for link to the paper.