To identify the mechanisms by which human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) might penetrate the epithelial barrier during sexual transmission to women and the mechanisms of vaccine-associated protection against entry, we characterized early epithelial responses to vaginal inoculation of simian immunodeficiency virus strain mac251 (SIVmac251) in naive or SIVmac239Δnef-vaccinated rhesus macaques. Vaginal inoculation induced an early stress response in the cervicovaginal epithelium, which was associated with impaired epithelial integrity, damaged barrier function, and virus and bacterial translocation. In vaccinated animals, early stress responses were suppressed, and the maintenance of epithelial barrier integrity correlated with prevention of virus entry. These vaccine-protective effects were associated with a previously described mucosal system for locally producing and concentrating trimeric gp41 antibodies at the mucosal interface and with formation of SIV-specific immune complexes that block the stress responses via binding to the epithelial receptor FCGR2B and subsequent inhibitory signaling. Thus, blocking virus entry may be one protective mechanism by which locally concentrated non-neutralizing Ab might prevent HIV sexual transmission to women.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Financial support. This work was supported by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, the National Institutes of Health (grants AI071306, AI102625, P51 OD011103, and P51 OD011132), and the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (contract HHSN261200800001E).
- Epithelium integrity
- Female reproductive tract