A protein in one of the first immune cells encountered by HIV as it enters the body acts as a natural barrier to transmission of the virus, according to a paper in the March 2007 issue of Nature Medicine.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is transmitted to lymphocytes by dendritic cells (DCs) that are present in the subepithelium of organs susceptible to viral invasion. The mechanism of transmission has been well characterized and was thought to be similar for all DCs. However, Teunis Geijtenbeek and colleagues now report that human epithelial Langerhans cells, the first DC subset to encounter HIV, operate in a different way. These cells express langerin -- a protein that prevents HIV transmission by capturing the virus and targeting it for degradation
The results from this study suggests that langerin is a natural barrier to HIV infection, and imply that strategies to combat the disease must enhance, preserve or at least not interfere with, the function of this protein.
Teunis Geijtenbeek (Vrije University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
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