Objective: To investigate whether exosomes derived from human breast milk or plasma confer protection against HIV-1 infection of monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MDDCs) and subsequent viral transfer to CD4+ T cells.
Design: MDDCs were generated and milk and plasma-derived exosomes were isolated from healthy donors. To determine the capacity of exosomes to inhibit HIV-1 infection, MDDCs were preincubated with exosomes before exposure to HIV-1BaL. To investigate transfer of HIV-1 from MDDCs to CD4+ T cells, MDDCs preincubated with exosomes and HIV-1BaL were cocultured with allogeneic CD4+ T cells. To explore receptors used by MDDCs for binding of exosomes, blocking experiments were performed.
Methods: Productive HIV-1 infection was analysed in MDDCs and CD4+ T cells by determining p24 expression by flow cytometry. Confocal microscopy and flow cytometry was used to investigate uptake of fluorescently labelled exosomes by MDDCs.
Results: Milk exosomes, but not plasma exosomes, bind MDDCs via DC-SIGN inhibiting HIV-1 infection of MDDCs and subsequent viral transfer to CD4+ T cells.
Conclusion: We propose that milk exosomes act as a novel protective factor against vertical transmission of HIV-1 by competing with HIV-1 for binding to DC-SIGN on MDDCs.