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Receptor Boosts HIV Infection

In the human tragedy of HIV infection, dendritic cells play a vicious double role analogous to an international cocaine trafficker who morphs into a street-level crack peddler. These antigen-presenting immune-system cells transport HIV from the mucosal membranes near which it enters the body to secondary lymphoid organs. There, the cells pass the virus over to the T lymphocytes that it will ultimately destroy. Exactly how dendritic cells serve these functions is unknown, but two new studie

Douglas Steinberg

In the human tragedy of HIV infection, dendritic cells play a vicious double role analogous to an international cocaine trafficker who morphs into a street-level crack peddler. These antigen-presenting immune-system cells transport HIV from the mucosal membranes near which it enters the body to secondary lymphoid organs. There, the cells pass the virus over to the T lymphocytes that it will ultimately destroy.

Exactly how dendritic cells serve these functions is unknown, but two new studies appear to provide a crucial clue.1,2 It is a receptor on dendritic cells that binds to the HIV envelope glycoprotein gp120 and to an adhesion molecule on T cells known as ICAM-3. This receptor has been dubbed DC-SIGN (for "dendritic cell-specific ICAM-3 grabbing nonintegrin").

Dutch and American researchers applied tissue staining and diverse in vitro experiments to show how crucial DC-SIGN might be. HIV bound to cultured dendritic cells via DC-SIGN, which was...

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