Identification of HIV transmitting CD11c+ human epidermal dendritic cells

Nat Commun. 2019 Jun 21;10(1):2759. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-10697-w.


Langerhans cells (LC) are thought to be the only mononuclear phagocyte population in the epidermis where they detect pathogens. Here, we show that CD11c+ dendritic cells (DCs) are also present. These cells are transcriptionally similar to dermal cDC2 but are more efficient antigen-presenting cells. Compared to LCs, epidermal CD11c+ DCs are enriched in anogenital tissues where they preferentially interact with HIV, express the higher levels of HIV entry receptor CCR5, support the higher levels of HIV uptake and replication and are more efficient at transmitting the virus to CD4 T cells. Importantly, these findings are observed using both a lab-adapted and transmitted/founder strain of HIV. We also describe a CD33low cell population, which is transcriptionally similar to LCs but does not appear to function as antigen-presenting cells or acts as HIV target cells. Our findings reveal that epidermal DCs in anogenital tissues potentially play a key role in sexual transmission of HIV.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antigen Presentation / immunology
  • CD11c Antigen / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / virology*
  • Epidermal Cells / immunology
  • Epidermal Cells / metabolism
  • Epidermal Cells / virology*
  • Epidermis / immunology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV-1 / immunology*
  • HIV-1 / pathogenicity
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Receptors, CCR5 / metabolism
  • Sialic Acid Binding Ig-like Lectin 3 / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Virus Internalization


  • CCR5 protein, human
  • CD11c Antigen
  • CD33 protein, human
  • Receptors, CCR5
  • Sialic Acid Binding Ig-like Lectin 3