Oral transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in adult populations is rare. However, HIV spread across fetal/neonatal oropharyngeal epithelia could be important in mother-to-child transmission. Analysis of HIV transmission across polarized adult and fetal oral epithelial cells revealed that HIV transmigrates through both adult and fetal cells. However, only virions that passed through the fetal cells - and not those that passed through the adult cells - remained infectious. Analysis of expression of anti-HIV innate proteins beta-defensins 2 and 3, and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor in adult, fetal, and infant oral epithelia showed that their expression is predominantly in the adult oral epithelium. Retention of HIV infectivity after transmigration correlated inversely with the expression of these innate proteins. Inactivation of innate proteins in adult oral keratinocytes restored HIV infectivity. These data suggest that high-level innate protein expression may contribute to the resistance of the adult oral epithelium to HIV transmission.
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