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Tetherin does not significantly restrict dendritic cell-mediated HIV-1 transmission and its expression is upregulated by newly synthesized HIV-1 Nef

Christopher M Coleman1, Paul Spearman2 and Li Wu1*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Retrovirus Research, Department of Veterinary Biosciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA

2 Departments of Pediatrics and Microbiology and Immunology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA

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Retrovirology 2011, 8:26  doi:10.1186/1742-4690-8-26

Published: 19 April 2011



Dendritic cells (DCs) are among the first cells to encounter HIV-1 and play important roles in viral transmission and pathogenesis. Immature DCs allow productive HIV-1 replication and long-term viral dissemination. The pro-inflammatory factor lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induces DC maturation and enhances the efficiency of DC-mediated HIV-1 transmission. Type I interferon (IFN) partially inhibits HIV-1 replication and cell-cell transmission in CD4+ T cells and macrophages. Tetherin is a type I IFN-inducible restriction factor that blocks HIV-1 release and modulates CD4+ T cell-mediated cell-to-cell transmission of HIV-1. However, the role of type I IFN and tetherin in HIV-1 infection of DCs and DC-mediated viral transmission remains unknown.


We demonstrated that IFN-alpha (IFNα)-induced mature DCs restricted HIV-1 replication and trans-infection of CD4+ T cells. Tetherin expression in monocyte-derived immature DCs was undetectable or very low. High levels of tetherin were transiently expressed in LPS- and IFNα-induced mature DCs, while HIV-1 localized into distinct patches in these DCs. Knockdown of induced tetherin in LPS- or IFNα-matured DCs modestly enhanced HIV-1 transmission to CD4+ T cells, but had no significant effect on wild-type HIV-1 replication in mature DCs. Intriguingly, we found that HIV-1 replication in immature DCs induced significant tetherin expression in a Nef-dependent manner.


The restriction of HIV-1 replication and transmission in IFNα-induced mature DCs indicates a potent anti-HIV-1 response; however, high levels of tetherin induced in mature DCs cannot significantly restrict wild-type HIV-1 release and DC-mediated HIV-1 transmission. Nef-dependent tetherin induction in HIV-1-infected immature DCs suggests an innate immune response of DCs to HIV-1 infection.