HIV-1 Infection: The Role of the Gastrointestinal Tract

Authors

  • Mariangela Cavarelli,

    1. Viral Evolution and Transmission Unit, Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy
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  • Gabriella Scarlatti

    Corresponding author
    1. Viral Evolution and Transmission Unit, Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy
    • Correspondence

      Gabriella Scarlatti, Viral Evolution and Transmission Unit, Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Via Olgettina 58, 20132 Milan, Italy.

      E-mail: scarlatti.gabriella@hsr.it

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Abstract

The intestinal mucosa has an important role as portal of entry during mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1 and during sexual transmission. Tissue morphology and integrity, as well as distribution of relevant cell types within the mucosa, spanning from the oropharynx to the rectum, can greatly influence viral infection, replication, presentation, and persistence. The relative contribution to transmission by cell-associated or cell-free virus is still not defined for the different routes of transmission. Although the main target cells for HIV-1 replication are the CD4+ T lymphocytes, which are rapidly depleted both in the periphery and in the mucosal tissues, dendritic cells, Langerhans' cells, and macrophages are players in each of these processes. The predominant cells involved may differ according to the tract of the gut and the route of transmission. The microenvironment of the intestinal mucosa, including mucus, antibodies, or chemo-cytokines, can as well influence infection and replication of the virus: their role is still under investigation. The understanding of these processes may help in developing efficient prevention strategies.

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