Isolation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 from human epidermis: Virus replication and transmission studies

Rudolf Berger, Suzanne Gartner, Klemens Rappersberger, Carolyn A. Foster, Klaus Wolff, Georg Stingl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For a better understanding of the pathogenetic events operative in the cutaneous manifestations of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) disease, we investigated whether epidermal cells (EC) from HIV-1 -seronegative persons can be infected with HIV-1 and, vice versa, whether HIV-1 can be rescued from the epidermis of HIV-1-infected individuals. In a series of three experiments, we consistently found that exposure of EC from HIV-1-seronegative donors to HIV-1 led to viral replication in these cells as evidenced by the detection of HIV-1 p24 in culture fluids. Because EC had been substantially enriched for Langerhans cells (LC) before being exposed to HIV-1, it is reasonable to assume that these CD1a+/CD4+/MHC class II+ antigen-presenting cells of the epidermis represented the actual targets of infection. This assumption is further strengthened by the observation that T cell-depleted cell suspensions from Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) lesions could be productively infected with HIV-1. Conversely, co-culture of epidermal sheets from HIV-1-seropositive individuals with mononuclear phagocytes (MNP) from HIV- 1-seronegative donors resulted, after 3 to 5 weeks, in the detection of HIV-1 p24 in 12 of 23 cases. Immunocytochemical analysis, using a monoclonal antibody specific for p24, revealed the presence of HIV-1 in adherent MNP in three cocultures tested. In addition, cellular DNA from these cultures showed strong signals when hybridized to a HIV-1-specific DNA probe. The further finding that two isolates examined exhibited different restriction enzyme patterns indicates that they are separate entities rather than contaminants. Transmission of these isolates to MNP, B- or T-cell lines resulted in cultures strongly positive for p24 and, in the case of H9 cells, for viral particles as detected by electron microscopy. Our results therefore strongly suggest that EC not only can serve as targets for HIV-1, but also can allow efficient virus replication and transmit HIV-1 to various cell types of the hematopoietic lineage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-277
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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