Image of the Day: HIV Shuttles

Macrophages transport HIV-like particles into lymph nodes during infection.

Emily Makowski
Dec 5, 2019

ABOVE: HIV-1 virus–like particles (green) are ferried to follicular dendritic cells (dark blue) in the mouse lymph node

During HIV infection, the virus accumulates and then hunkers down in the lymphatic system, making it difficult to treat. Research published Tuesday (December 3) in eLife shows how the HIV-1 virus could be shuttled into the lymph nodes and attached to immune cells.

Immunologists Chung Park and John Kehrl of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases injected fluorescent HIV-1 virus–like particles into the groins of mice and observed how they spread into the lymph nodes. Virus-like particles are nanostructures that look like viruses but do not have genetic material, so they cannot reproduce—making them non-infectious.

The researchers found that a layer of cells called subcapsular sinus macrophages shuttled the HIV-like particles to other immune cells in the lymph nodes such as follicular dendritic cells and B cells. They also found that the protein MFG-E8 has an important role in this process—without it, the spread of the particles was drastically reduced, which could have implications for limiting HIV spread in the future.

C. Park, J.H. Kehrl, “An integrin/MFG-E8 shuttle loads HIV-1 viral like particles onto follicular dendritic cells in mouse lymph node,” eLife, doi:10.7554/eLife.47776, 2019.

Emily Makowski is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at

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