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Mucosal immunity to HIV: a review of recent literature

Shacklett, Barbara L

Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS: September 2008 - Volume 3 - Issue 5 - p 541–547
doi: 10.1097/COH.0b013e32830ab9ee
Microbicides: Edited by John Kaldor and Melissa Robbiani

Purpose of review This review summarizes recent literature in the field of mucosal immunology as it applies to HIV transmission and pathogenesis.

Recent findings Pertinent recent findings include elucidation of the role of mucosal antigen-presenting cells and retinoic acid in imprinting a gut-homing phenotype on antigen-specific T and B cells, and the identification of Th17 and T regulatory cells as key modulators of the balance between tolerance and inflammation in mucosal tissues.

Summary Mucosal surfaces of the body serve as the major portal of entry for HIV. These tissues also house a majority of the body's lymphocytes, including the CD4+ T-cells that are the major cellular target for HIV infection. Elucidating mucosal immune responses is critical to our understanding of the host–pathogen relationship for two reasons: first, mucosal barriers are defended by a range of innate and adaptive defenses that might be exploited to develop effective vaccines or microbicides; second, adaptive immune responses in mucosal lymphoid tissues might serve to limit viral replication, decreasing the host's viral burden as well as reducing the likelihood of sexual transmission to a naïve host.

Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis, California, USA

Correspondence to Barbara L. Shacklett, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept. of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, 3327 Tupper Hall, 1 Shields Avenue, Davis, California, USA Tel: +1 530 752 6785; fax: +1 530 752 8692; e-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.