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A single HIV-1 variant establishes infection of the host after sexual contact. Identifying the phenotypic characteristics of these Transmitted Founder (T/F) viruses is important to understand the restriction mechanisms during transmission. Langerhans cells (LCs) are the mucosal dendritic cell subset that has been shown to have a protective role in HIV-1 transmission. Immature LCs efficiently capture and degrade HIV-1 via langerin-mediated restriction. Here we have investigated the capacity of T/F HIV-1 strains to infect mucosal Langerhans cells (LCs). Notably, most T/F variants efficiently infected immature LCs derived from skin and vaginal tissue in contrast to chronic HIV-1 laboratory strains. Next we screened a panel of T/F viruses and their matched 6-month consensus sequence viruses. Interestingly most T/F variants infected immature LCs whereas donor-matched 6-month consensus sequence viruses had lost the ability to infect LCs. However, we also identified 6-month consensus sequence viruses that had retained an ability to infect LCs similar to that of the donor-matched T/F virus. Moreover, some T/F viruses and 6-month consensus sequence viruses were unable to infect immature LCs. Further analyses indicated that T/F viruses are less sensitive to langerin-mediated restriction. These data suggest that T/F HIV-1 variants have the ability to infect immature LCs, which will facilitate transmission.

Original publication




Journal article


PloS one

Publication Date





Department of Experimental Immunology, Amsterdam Infection and Immunity Institute, Amsterdam University Medical Centers, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.