Human cervicovaginal mucus contains an activity that hinders HIV-1 movement

Mucosal Immunol. 2013 Mar;6(2):427-34. doi: 10.1038/mi.2012.87. Epub 2012 Sep 19.


Cervical and vaginal epithelia are primary barriers against HIV type I (HIV-1) entry during male-to-female transmission. Cervical mucus (CM) is produced by the endocervix and forms a layer locally as well as in the vaginal compartment in the form of cervicovaginal mucus (CVM). To study the potential barrier function of each mucus type during HIV-1 transmission, we quantified HIV-1 mobility in CM and CVM ex vivo using fluorescent microscopy. Virions and 200-nm PEGylated beads were digitally tracked and mean-squared displacement was calculated. The mobility of beads increased significantly in CVM compared with CM, consistent with the known decreased mucin concentration of CVM. Unexpectedly, HIV-1 diffusion was significantly hindered in the same CVM samples in which bead diffusion was unhindered. Inhibition of virus transport was envelope-independent. Our results reveal a previously unknown activity in CVM that is capable of impeding HIV-1 mobility to enhance mucosal barrier function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Line
  • Cervix Mucus / immunology
  • Cervix Mucus / physiology*
  • Cervix Mucus / virology
  • Facilitated Diffusion
  • Female
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • Semen / physiology
  • Semen / virology
  • Virion / physiology