HIV vaginal transmission accounts for the majority of newly acquired heterosexual infections. However, the mechanism by which HIV spreads from the initial site of viral entry at the mucosal surface of the female genital tract to establish a systemic infection of lymphoid and peripheral tissues is not known. Once the virus exits the mucosa it rapidly spreads to all tissues, leading to CD4+ T cell depletion and the establishment of a viral reservoir that cannot be eliminated with current treatments. Understanding the molecular and cellular requirements for viral dissemination from the genital tract is therefore of great importance, as it could reveal new strategies to lengthen the window of opportunity to target the virus at its entry site in the mucosa where it is the most vulnerable and thus prevent systemic infection. Using HIV vaginal infection of humanized mice as a model of heterosexual transmission, we demonstrate that blocking the ability of leukocytes to respond to chemoattractants prevented HIV from leaving the female genital tract. Furthermore, blocking lymphocyte egress from lymph nodes prevented viremia and infection of the gut. Leukocyte trafficking therefore plays a major role in viral dissemination, and targeting the chemoattractant molecules involved can prevent the establishment of a systemic infection.
Maud Deruaz, Thomas T. Murooka, Sophina Ji, Marc A. Gavin, Vladimir D. Vrbanac, Judy Lieberman, Andrew M. Tager, Thorsten R. Mempel, Andrew D. Luster