Langerhans cells (LC), the dendritic antigen presenting cells of the skin, mature into potent immunostimulatory cells during migration to regional lymph nodes, where they are identified as interdigitating cells (IDC). Since mature Langerhans cells (mLC) resemble IDC in phenotype and immunostimulatory capacity, we examined whether these cells were susceptible to infection with macrophagetropic and lymphotropic strains of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). Highly purified cell preparations of mLC migrating from human epidermis expressed high amounts of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and II antigens and of the accessory molecules CD40, CD80 and CD86, indicative of the phenotype of potent immunostimulatory cells. CD4 expression was up-regulated on mLC during cultivation, independent of the presence of tumour necrosis factor α (TNF-α) and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) in the culture medium. The macrophagetropic HIV-1 strain SF162 replicated to higher titres in mLC than the lymphotropic strain IIIB. Both strains induced syncytia, with SF162 showing a more rapid cytophathic effect. Addition of TNF-α enhanced virus production, due to better cell viability under TNF-α treatment, whereas GM-CSF did not significantly influence viability of cells and replication pattern of the virus. These findings suggest that in the infected individual IDC in lymph nodes may function as target cells for HIV-1.


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