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Cell-type specific requirements for thiol/disulfide exchange during HIV-1 entry and infection

Tzanko S Stantchev1, Mark Paciga1, Carla R Lankford1, Franziska Schwartzkopff1, Christopher C Broder2 and Kathleen A Clouse1*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Cell Biology, Division of Monoclonal Antibodies, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA

2 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, MD, 20814, USA

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Retrovirology 2012, 9:97  doi:10.1186/1742-4690-9-97

Published: 3 December 2012



The role of disulfide bond remodeling in HIV-1 infection is well described, but the process still remains incompletely characterized. At present, the data have been predominantly obtained using established cell lines and/or CXCR4-tropic laboratory-adapted virus strains. There is also ambiguity about which disulfide isomerases/ reductases play a major role in HIV-1 entry, as protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) and/or thioredoxin (Trx) have emerged as the two enzymes most often implicated in this process.


We have extended our previous findings and those of others by focusing on CCR5-using HIV-1 strains and their natural targets - primary human macrophages and CD4+ T lymphocytes. We found that the nonspecific thiol/disulfide exchange inhibitor, 5,5'-dithiobis(2-nitrobenzoic acid) (DTNB), significantly reduced HIV-1 entry and infection in cell lines, human monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM), and also phytohemagglutinin (PHA)-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). Subsequent studies were performed using specific anti-PDI or Trx monoclonal antibodies (mAb) in HIV-1 envelope pseudotyped and wild type (wt) virus infection systems. Although human donor-to-donor variability was observed as expected, Trx appeared to play a greater role than PDI in HIV-1 infection of MDM. In contrast, PDI, but not Trx, was predominantly involved in HIV-1 entry and infection of the CD4+/CCR5+ T cell line, PM-1, and PHA-stimulated primary human T lymphocytes. Intriguingly, both PDI and Trx were present on the surface of MDM, PM-1 and PHA-stimulated CD4+ T cells. However, considerably lower levels of Trx were detected on freshly isolated CD4+ lymphocytes, compared to PHA-stimulated cells.


Our findings clearly demonstrate the role of thiol/disulfide exchange in HIV-1 entry in primary T lymphocytes and MDM. They also establish a cell-type specificity regarding the involvement of particular disulfide isomerases/reductases in this process and may provide an explanation for differences among previously published studies. More importantly, from an in vivo perspective, the preferential utilization of PDI may be relevant to the HIV-1 entry and establishment of virus reservoirs in resting CD4+ cells, while the elevated levels of Trx reported in the chronic stages of HIV-1 infection may facilitate the virus entry in macrophages and help to sustain high viremia during the decline of T lymphocytes.

HIV-1; Virus entry; Protein disulfide isomerase; Thioredoxin; Cell type specificity