The basic premise of whether transmission of HIV-1 through the oral mucosa actually occurs, and through what route, is a topic of intense interest. Our work has focused on HIV-1 receptors/co-receptors and alpha-defensin-1 in situ in human gingiva. Regardless of HIV-1 infection, the role that C-type lectin receptors might play in periodontal pathogenesis is of great interest. We have shown that the gingival lamina propria, when inflamed, becomes increasingly infiltrated with DC-SIGN+MR+ dermal dendritic cells (DDCs), while the inflamed epithelium shows a decrease in Langerin+ Langerhans cells (LCs). Moreover, DDCs and LCs contribute to the mature CD83+ DC pool in situ, and form immune conjugates with CD4+ T-cells in the lamina propria (Jotwani and Cutler, 2003). This raises the intriguing possibility that oral mucosal DCs may be involved in HIV-1 transfer to T-cells in situ. However, this possibility is tendered by the challenges faced by the virus in gaining access to oral mucosal immune cells, including their ability to survive the salivary defenses, cross the mucosal barrier, resist inactivation by alpha-defensins, and overcome the paucity of co-receptor CCR5 in (healthy) oral mucosa (i.e., required for productive infection [Jotwani et al., 2004]). To date, there is little evidence of direct infection by HIV-1 of oral mucosal DCs/T cells and other cells in situ. Abbreviations used in this paper: CP, chronic periodontitis; CCR5, chemokine receptor 5; CXCR4, C-X-C receptor 4; DCs, dendritic cells; DC-SIGN, DC-specific ICAM-3 grabbing non-integrin; DDC, dermal dendritic cells; LCs, Langerhans cells; LP, lamina propria; MR, mannose receptor.
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