RALDH Activity Induced by Bacterial/Fungal Pathogens in CD16+ Monocyte-Derived Dendritic Cells Boosts HIV Infection and Outgrowth in CD4+ T Cells

J Immunol. 2021 Jun 1;206(11):2638-2651. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.2001436. Epub 2021 May 24.


HIV reservoirs persist in gut-homing CD4+ T cells of people living with HIV and receiving antiretroviral therapy, but the antigenic specificity of such reservoirs remains poorly documented. The imprinting for gut homing is mediated by retinoic acid (RA), a vitamin A-derived metabolite produced by dendritic cells (DCs) exhibiting RA-synthesizing (RALDH) activity. RALDH activity in DCs can be induced by TLR2 ligands, such as bacterial peptidoglycans and fungal zymosan. Thus, we hypothesized that bacterial/fungal pathogens triggering RALDH activity in DCs fuel HIV reservoir establishment/outgrowth in pathogen-reactive CD4+ T cells. Our results demonstrate that DCs derived from intermediate/nonclassical CD16+ compared with classical CD16- monocytes exhibited superior RALDH activity and higher capacity to transmit HIV infection to autologous Staphylococcus aureus-reactive T cells. Exposure of total monocyte-derived DCs (MDDCs) to S. aureus lysates as well as TLR2 (zymosan and heat-killed preparation of Listeria monocytogenes) and TLR4 (LPS) agonists but not CMV lysates resulted in a robust upregulation of RALDH activity. MDDCs loaded with S. aureus or zymosan induced the proliferation of T cells with a CCR5+integrin β7+CCR6+ phenotype and efficiently transmitted HIV infection to these T cells via RALDH/RA-dependent mechanisms. Finally, S. aureus- and zymosan-reactive CD4+ T cells of antiretroviral therapy-treated people living with HIV carried replication-competent integrated HIV-DNA, as demonstrated by an MDDC-based viral outgrowth assay. Together, these results support a model in which bacterial/fungal pathogens in the gut promote RALDH activity in MDDCs, especially in CD16+ MDDCs, and subsequently imprint CD4+ T cells with gut-homing potential and HIV permissiveness. Thus, nonviral pathogens play key roles in fueling HIV reservoir establishment/outgrowth via RALDH/RA-dependent mechanisms that may be therapeutically targeted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Female
  • Fungi / immunology
  • GPI-Linked Proteins / immunology
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Listeria monocytogenes / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Receptors, IgG / immunology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / immunology
  • Tretinoin / immunology*
  • Young Adult


  • FCGR3B protein, human
  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • Receptors, IgG
  • Tretinoin

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