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The cellular adhesion molecule LFA-1 and its ICAM-1 ligand play an important role in promoting HIV-1 infectivity and transmission. These molecules are present on the envelope of HIV-1 virions and are integral components of the HIV virological synapse. However, cellular activation is required to convert LFA-1 to the active conformation that has high affinity binding for ICAM-1. This study evaluates whether such activation can be induced by HIV itself. The data show that HIV-1 gp120 was sufficient to trigger LFA-1 activation in fully quiescent naïve CD4 T cells in a CD4-dependent manner, and these CD4 T cells became more susceptible to killing by LtxA, a bacterial leukotoxin that preferentially targets leukocytes expressing high levels of the active LFA-1. Moreover, virus p24-expressing CD4 T cells in the peripheral blood of HIV-infected subjects were found to have higher levels of surface LFA-1, and LtxA treatment led to significant reduction of the viral DNA burden. These results demonstrate for the first time the ability of HIV to directly induce LFA-1 activation on CD4 T cells. Although LFA-1 activation may enhance HIV infectivity and transmission, it also renders the cells more susceptible to an LFA-1-targeting bacterial toxin, which may be harnessed as a novel therapeutic strategy to deplete virus reservoir in HIV-infected individuals.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Actins, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Cell Survival, Cells, Cultured, Exotoxins, Flow Cytometry, HIV Envelope Protein gp120, Humans, Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1, Lymphocyte Function-Associated Antigen-1, Microscopy, Fluorescence, Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction