Dendritic cells (DC) are bone marrow-derived leukocytes that act as powerful stimulators of primary and secondary immune responses. Langerhans cells (LC), which are immature DC in epidermis and genital mucosa, are generally believed to be the initial cells infected with HIV following mucosal exposure to virus. Interestingly, freshly isolated LC express the HIV coreceptor CCR5, but not CXCR4, on their cell surfaces. This expression pattern would theoretically allow only macrophage-tropic [and not T cell (TC)-tropic] HIV to be transmitted across intact mucosal epithelium. In vitro, it is known that HIV infects LC (and other DC) in a CD4- and HIV coreceptor-dependent manner. In addition, HIV can be captured by prominent stellate processes on the surface of LC/DC. HIV-infected DC, as well as DC that have captured HIV, efficiently transmit virus to TC during antigen-specific TC activation. Thus, DC may be involved in HIV plasma viremia increases observed following antigenic exposure, e.g. immunizations, in chronically HIV-infected individuals by (1) activating latently infected TC or (2) activating and transmitting virus to new target TC. In summary, DC most likely play a major role in primary HIV infection by allowing virus to breach mucosal surfaces, and can act during both initial and chronic phases of HIV disease by facilitating infection and depletion of TC.