Semen-mediated enhancement of HIV infection is donor-dependent and correlates with the levels of SEVI

Retrovirology. 2010 Jun 23;7:55. doi: 10.1186/1742-4690-7-55.


Background: HIV-1 is usually transmitted in the presence of semen. We have shown that semen boosts HIV-1 infection and contains fragments of prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) forming amyloid aggregates termed SEVI (semen-derived enhancer of viral infection) that promote virion attachment to target cells. Despite its importance for the global spread of HIV-1, however, the effect of semen on virus infection is controversial.

Results: Here, we established methods allowing the meaningful analysis of semen by minimizing its cytotoxic effects and partly recapitulating the conditions encountered during sexual HIV-1 transmission. We show that semen rapidly and effectively enhances the infectivity of HIV-1, HIV-2, and SIV. This enhancement occurs independently of the viral genotype and coreceptor tropism as well as the virus producer and target cell type. Semen-mediated enhancement of HIV-1 infection was also observed under acidic pH conditions and in the presence of vaginal fluid. We further show that the potency of semen in boosting HIV-1 infection is donor dependent and correlates with the levels of SEVI.

Conclusions: Our results show that semen strongly enhances the infectivity of HIV-1 and other primate lentiviruses and that SEVI contributes to this effect. Thus, SEVI may play an important role in the sexual transmission of HIV-1 and addition of SEVI inhibitors to microbicides may improve their efficacy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acid Phosphatase
  • Amyloid / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • HIV-1 / pathogenicity*
  • HIV-2 / pathogenicity
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Primates
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases / metabolism*
  • Semen / virology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral*
  • Simian Immunodeficiency Virus / pathogenicity
  • Virus Attachment*


  • Amyloid
  • Acid Phosphatase
  • prostatic acid phosphatase
  • Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases