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Natural killer cells, dendritic cells, and the alarmin high-mobility group box 1 protein: a dangerous trio in HIV-1 infection?

Gougeon, Marie-Lise; Bras, Marlène

Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS: September 2011 - Volume 6 - Issue 5 - p 364–372
doi: 10.1097/COH.0b013e328349b089
Innate immunity: Edited by William A. Paxton and Teunis B.H. Geijtenbeek

Purpose of review Natural killer (NK) cells promote antiviral immunity by producing proinflammatory cytokines and by lysing infected cells. In addition, NK cells can modulate dendritic cell functions. NK–dendritic cell crosstalk results in activation of both cell types, with dendritic cells promoting NK-cell activity and NK cells inducing further maturation of dendritic cells. Here we review the recent evidence suggesting that NK–dendritic cell crosstalk is disrupted during HIV-1 infection and we discuss the consequences on HIV persistence in dendritic cells.

Recent findings NK cell-mediated dendritic cell editing is compromised during HIV-1 infection, and NK cells from viremic individuals show a decreased ability to kill immature dendritic cells. The defect is associated with impaired NKp30 function. Moreover, the resistance of HIV-1-infected dendritic cells to NK-mediated lysis is associated with the upregulation of apoptosis inhibitors, thus protecting infected dendritic cells from TRAIL-dependent apoptosis. These inhibitors are upregulated by the high-mobility group box 1 protein (HMGB1), an alarmin produced at NK–dendritic cell synapse that is essential for NK-dependent dendritic cell maturation, but also promotes viral replication in infected dendritic cells.

Summary HIV-1-induced impairment of NK–dendritic cell crosstalk may significantly alter both innate and adaptive immunity. It may also contribute to HIV persistence in dendritic cells through an HMGB1-dependent mechanism.

Antiviral Immunity, Biotherapy and Vaccine Unit, Infection and Epidemiology Department, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France

Correspondence to Marie-Lise Gougeon, Antiviral Immunity, Biotherapy and Vaccine Unit, Infection and Epidemiology Department, Institut Pasteur, 25 rue du Dr Roux, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France Tel: +33 1 4568 8907; fax: +33 1 4568 8909; e-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.