Molecular mechanisms of HIV-1 mother-to-child transmission and infection in neonatal target cells

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12 Scopus citations


HIV-1 mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) occurs mainly at three stages, including prepartum, intrapartum and postpartum. Several maternal factors, including low CD4+ lymphocyte counts, high viral load, immune response, advanced disease status, smoking and abusing drugs have been implicated in an increased risk of HIV-1 MTCT. While use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) during pregnancy has significantly reduced the rate of MTCT, selective transmission of ART resistant mutants has been reported. Based on HIV-1 sequence comparison, the maternal HIV-1 minor genotypes with R5 phenotypes are predominantly transmitted to their infants and initially maintained in the infants with the same properties. Several HIV-1 structural, regulatory and accessory genes were highly conserved following MTCT. In addition, HIV-1 sequences from non-transmitting mothers are less heterogeneous compared with transmitting mothers, suggesting that a higher level of viral heterogeneity influences MTCT. Analysis of the immunologically relevant epitopes showed that variants evolved to escape the immune response that influenced HIV-1 MTCT. Several cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes were identified in various HIV-1 genes that were conserved in HIV-1 mother-infant sequences, suggesting a role in MTCT. We have shown that HIV-1 replicates more efficiently in neonatal T-lymphocytes and monocytes/macrophages compared with adult cells, and this differential replication is influenced at the level of HIV-1 gene expression, which was due to differential expression of host factors, including transcriptional activators, signal transducers and cytokines in neonatal than adult cells. In addition, HIV-1 integration occurs in more actively transcribed genes in neonatal compared with adult cells, which may influence HIV-1 gene expression. The increased HIV-1 gene expression and replication in neonatal target cells contribute to a higher viral load and more rapid disease progression in neonates/infants than adults. These findings may identify targets, viral and host, for developing strategies for HIV-1 prevention and treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)980-986
Number of pages7
JournalLife Sciences
Issue number21-22
StatePublished - May 23 2011


  • HIV disease progression
  • HIV-1 features associated with and lack of vertical transmission
  • HIV-1 genotypes and phenotypes
  • HIV-1 mother-to-child transmission
  • HIV-1 replication in neonatal mononuclear cells
  • Host factors
  • Pediatric AIDS
  • Viral load

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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