The AIDS pandemic continues. Little is understood about how HIV gains access to permissive cells across mucosal surfaces, yet such knowledge is crucial to the development of successful topical anti-HIV-1 agents and mucosal vaccines. HIV-1 rapidly internalizes and integrates into the mucosal keratinocyte genome, and integrated copies of HIV-1 persist upon cell passage. The virus does not appear to replicate, and the infection may become latent. Interactions between HIV-1 and oral keratinocytes have been modeled in the context of key environmental factors, including putative copathogens and saliva. In keratinocytes, HIV-1 internalizes within minutes; in saliva, an infectious fraction escapes inactivation and is harbored and transferable to permissive target cells for up to 48 hours. When incubated with the common oral pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis, CCR5- oral keratinocytes signal through protease-activated receptors and Toll-like receptors to induce expression of CCR5, which increases selective uptake of infectious R5-tropic HIV-1 into oral keratinocytes and transfer to permissive cells. Hence, oral keratinocytes-like squamous keratinocytes of other tissues-may be targets for low-level HIV-1 internalization and subsequent dissemination by transfer to permissive cells.