Molecular Pathways to an HIV Cure
By Jeffrey Laurence, M.D.
Special types of sugars called glycans—present on the surface of normal cells—play key roles in the movement of cells through the body and influence their capacity to interact with other cells. But the types of sugars present on cells following HIV infection, and whether they might contribute to the persistence of viral reservoirs, is unknown.
Scientists from research groups in the U.S., Australia, and Japan looked at glycans found on the surface of HIV-infected cells that were either inactive or beginning to produce HIV. They found that the surface of HIV-infected CD4+ T cells that were starting to produce HIV had more molecules—known as ligands—composed of the glycan fucose than inactive cells. Fucose has been implicated in many important biologic functions, including immunity and cancer.
This difference was demonstrated both in test-tube experiments and in T cells obtained directly from people living with HIV who were receiving antiretroviral treatment. The implication is that the two T cell types—those beginning to produce HIV and those maintaining dormant virus—may move through the body, or “traffic,” in very different ways. This trafficking activity may play an important role in maintaining reservoirs of HIV-infected cells throughout the body.
The authors concluded that the differences they identified “could provide the HIV cure field with vital biological clues into the molecular pathways involved in viral persistence.”
amfAR was a funder of this study.
Dr. Laurence is amfAR’s senior scientific consultant.