Background and aim: As platelets are able to endocytose human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), we have investigated the fate of lentiviruses when endocytosed by human platelets and megakaryocytes (MK), and have characterized a specific receptor directly involved in this function.
Methods: Genetically modified (non-replicative) lentiviruses with an HIV envelope (HIV-e) or with a vesicular stomatitis virus protein G envelope (VSV-e) were alternatively used and their interaction with platelets and MK analyzed by electron microscopy (EM) and immunoEM.
Results: When incubated with platelets, HIV-e and VSV-e lentiviruses were internalized in specific endocytic vesicles and trafficked to the surface connected canalicular system (SCCS). Double immunolabeling for the viral P24 core protein and alpha-granule markers showed that lentiviruses were degraded in the SCCS after contact with alpha-granule proteins. In culture MK, lentiviruses were found in endocytic vesicles and accumulated in acid phosphatase-containing multivesicular bodies (MVB). The expression of the pathogen receptor dendritic cell-specific ICAM-grabbing non-integrin (DC-SIGN) was then demonstrated in platelets by flow cytometry, immunoEM and Western blot. Anti-DC-SIGN antibodies decreased HIV-e lentivirus internalization by platelets, showing that the receptor is functional. Specific signals for DC-SIGN protein and mRNA were also found in MK.
Conclusion: This study indicates that platelets and MK can internalize lentiviruses in a pathway, which either provide a shelter to lentiviral particles or alternatively disrupts viral integrity. The receptor DC-SIGN is involved in this function.