Barriers of mucosal entry of HIV/SIV

Ann M. Carias*, Thomas J. Hope

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Most new HIV infections, over 80%, occur through sexual transmission. During sexual transmission, the virus must bypass specific female and male reproductive tract anatomical barriers to encounter viable target cells. Understanding the generally efficient ability of these barriers to exclude HIV and the precise mechanisms of HIV translocation beyond these genital barriers is essential for vaccine and novel therapeutic development. In this review, we explore the mucosal, barriers of cervico-vaginal and penile tissues that comprise the female and male reproductive tracts. The unique cellular assemblies of the squamous and columnar epithelium are illustrated highlighting their structure and function. Each anatomical tissue offers a unique barrier to virus entry in healthy individuals. Unfortunately barrier dysfunction can lead to HIV transmission. How these diverse mucosal barriers have the potential to fail is considered, highlighting those anatomical areas that are postulated to offer a weaker barrier and are; therefore, more susceptible to viral ingress. Risk factors, such as sexually transmitted infections, microbiome dysbiosis, and high progestin environments are also associated with increased acquisition of HIV. How these states may affect the integrity of mucosal barriers leading to HIV acquisition are discussed suggesting mechanisms of transmission and revealing potential targets for intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-13
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Immunology Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • Female reproductive tract
  • HIV infection
  • Hiv risk
  • Hormonal contraception
  • Target cells
  • Vaginal transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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