Oropharyngeal mucosal epithelia of fetuses/neonates/infants and the genital epithelia of adults play a critical role in HIV-1 mother-to-child transmission and sexual transmission of virus, respectively. To study the mechanisms of HIV-1 transmission through mucosal epithelium, we established polarized tonsil, cervical and foreskin epithelial cells. Analysis of HIV-1 transmission through epithelial cells showed that approximately 0.05% of initially inoculated virions transmigrated via epithelium. More than 90% of internalized virions were sequestered in the endosomes of epithelial cells, including multivesicular bodies (MVBs) and vacuoles. Intraepithelial HIV-1 remained infectious for 9 days without viral release. Release of sequestered intraepithelial HIV-1 was induced by the calcium ionophore ionomycin and by cytochalasin D, which increase intracellular calcium and disrupt the cortical actin of epithelial cells, respectively. Cocultivation of epithelial cells containing HIV-1 with activated peripheral blood mononuclear cells and CD4+ T lymphocytes led to the disruption of epithelial cortical actin and spread of virus from epithelial cells to lymphocytes. Treatment of epithelial cells with proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interferon gamma also induced reorganization of cortical actin and release of virus. Inhibition of MVB formation by small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated silencing of its critical protein hepatocyte growth factor-regulated tyrosine kinase substrate (Hrs) expression reduced viral sequestration in epithelial cells and its transmission from epithelial cells to lymphocytes by ~60–70%. Furthermore, inhibition of vacuole formation of epithelial cells by siRNA-inactivated rabankyrin-5 expression also significantly reduced HIV-1 sequestration in epithelial cells and spread of virus from epithelial cells to lymphocytes. Interaction of the intercellular adhesion molecule-1 of epithelial cells with the function-associated antigen-1 of lymphocytes was important for inducing the release of sequestered HIV-1 from epithelial cells and facilitating cell-to-cell spread of virus from epithelial cells to lymphocytes. This mechanism may serve as a pathway of HIV-1 mucosal transmission.
Yasen, A., Herrera, R., Rosbe, K., Lien, K., & Tugizov, S. M. (2017). Release of HIV-1 sequestered in the vesicles of oral and genital mucosal epithelial cells by epithelial-lymphocyte interaction. PLoS Pathogens, 13(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1006247