Inhibition of HIV transmission in human cervicovaginal explants and humanized mice using CD4 aptamer-siRNA chimeras

Lee Adam Wheeler, Radiana Trifonova, Vladimir Vrbanac, Emre Basar, Shannon McKernan, Zhan Xu, Edward Seung, Maud Deruaz, Tim Dudek, Jon Ivar Einarsson, Linda Yang, Todd M. Allen, Andrew D. Luster, Andrew M. Tager, Derek M. Dykxhoorn, Judy Lieberman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


The continued spread of the HIV epidemic underscores the need to interrupt transmission. One attractive strategy is a topical vaginal microbicide. Sexual transmission of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) in mice can be inhibited by intravaginal siRNA application. To overcome the challenges of knocking down gene expression in immune cells susceptible to HIV infection, we used chimeric RNAs composed of an aptamer fused to an siRNA for targeted gene knockdown in cells bearing an aptamer-binding receptor. Here, we showed that CD4 aptamer-siRNA chimeras (CD4-AsiCs) specifically suppress gene expression in CD4+ T cells and macrophages in vitro, in polarized cervicovaginal tissue explants, and in the female genital tract of humanized mice. CD4-AsiCs do not activate lymphocytes or stimulate innate immunity. CD4-AsiCs that knock down HIV genes and/or CCR5 inhibited HIV infection in vitro and in tissue explants. When applied intravaginally to humanized mice, CD4-AsiCs protected against HIV vaginal transmission. Thus, CD4-AsiCs could be used as the active ingredient of a microbicide to prevent HIV sexual transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2401-2412
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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