The female reproductive tract (FRT) is the most common site of infection during HIV transmission to women, but viral remodeling complicates characterization of cells targeted for infection. Here, we report extensive phenotypic analyses of HIV-infected endometrial cells by CyTOF, and use a 'nearest neighbor' bioinformatics approach to trace cells to their original pre-infection phenotypes. Like in blood, HIV preferentially targets memory CD4+ T cells in the endometrium, but these cells exhibit unique phenotypes and sustain much higher levels of infection. Genital cell remodeling by HIV includes downregulating TCR complex components and modulating chemokine receptor expression to promote dissemination of infected cells to lymphoid follicles. HIV also upregulates the anti-apoptotic protein BIRC5, which when blocked promotes death of infected endometrial cells. These results suggest that HIV remodels genital T cells to prolong viability and promote viral dissemination and that interfering with these processes might reduce the likelihood of systemic viral spread.
Keywords: HIV; female reproductive tract; human; infectious disease; microbiology; mucosa; t cells; virus; viruses.