Preferential HIV infection of CCR6+ Th17 cells is associated with higher levels of virus receptor expression and lack of CCR5 ligands

Yelina Alvarez, Michael Tuen, Guomiao Shen, Fatima Nawaz, James Arthos, Martin J. Wolff, Michael A. Poles, Catarina E. Hioe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Th17 cells are enriched in the gut mucosa and play a critical role in maintenance of the mucosal barrier and host defense against extracellular bacteria and fungal infections. During chronic human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, Th17 cells were more depleted compared to Th1 cells, even when the patients had low or undetectable viremia. To investigate the differential effects of HIV infection on Th17 and Th1 cells, a culture system was used in which CCR6+ CD4+ T cells were sorted from healthy human peripheral blood and activated in the presence of interleukin 1β (IL-1β) and IL-23 to drive expansion of Th17 cells while maintaining Th1 cells. HIV infection of these cultures had minimal effects on Th1 cells but caused depletion of Th17 cells. Th17 loss correlated with greater levels of virus-infected cells and cell death. In identifying cellular factors contributing to higher susceptibility of Th17 cells to HIV, we compared Th17-enriched CCR6+ and Th17-depleted CCR6+ CD4+ T cell cultures and noted that Th17-enriched CCR6+ cells expressed higher levels of α4β7 and bound HIV envelope in an α4β7-dependent manner. The cells also had greater expression of CD4 and CXCR4, but not CCR5, than CCR6- cells. Moreover, unlike Th1 cells, Th17 cells produced little CCR5 ligand, and transfection with one of the CCR5 ligands, MIP-1β (CCL4), increased their resistance against HIV. These results indicate that features unique to Th17 cells, including higher expression of HIV receptors and lack of autocrine CCR5 ligands, are associated with enhanced permissiveness of these cells to HIV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10843-10854
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number19
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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