Follicular dendritic cells (FDC) in retroviral infection: host/pathogen perspectives

Immunol Rev. 1997 Apr;156:185-97. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065x.1997.tb00968.x.


Follicular dendritic cells (FDC) are found in the follicles of virtually all secondary lymphoid tissues. In health, these cells trap and retain antigens (Ag) in the form of immune complexes and preserve them for months in their native conformation. FDC thus serve as a long-term repository of extracellular Ag important for induction and maintenance of memory responses. In retroviral infection, FDC trap and retain large numbers of retroviral particles with profound effects on FDC. FDC-trapped retrovirus induces follicular hyperplasia, and conventional Ag trapped prior to infection are lost and new Ag cannot be trapped. Concomitantly, antibody-forming cells (AFC) specific for Ag lost from FDC decrease followed by loss of specific serum antibody (Ab). Eventually, FDC die and follicular lysis occurs. From the pathogen perspective, binding to FDC is remarkably beneficial, bringing together virus and activated target cells that are highly susceptible to infection. Furthermore, FDC permit HIV to infect surrounding cells even in the presence of a vast excess of neutralizing Ab. Preliminary data suggest that FDC maintain virus infectivity-even when the virus cannot replicate. Thus retrovirus infection monopolizes FDC networks, thereby transforming the FDC Ag repository into a highly infectious retroviral reservoir.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Germinal Center / immunology
  • Germinal Center / ultrastructure
  • HIV / immunology
  • Humans
  • Retroviridae Infections / immunology*