Chronic HIV Infection Enhances the Responsiveness of Antigen Presenting Cells to Commensal Lactobacillus

Chronic immune activation despite long-term therapy poses an obstacle to immune recovery in HIV infection. The role of antigen presenting cells (APCs) in chronic immune activation during HIV infection remains to be fully determined. APCs, the frontline of immune defense against pathogens, are capable of distinguishing between pathogens and non-pathogenic, commensal bacteria. We hypothesized that HIV infection induces dysfunction in APC immune recognition and response to some commensal bacteria and that this may promote chronic immune activation. Therefore we examined APC inflammatory cytokine responses to commensal lactobacilli. We found that APCs from HIV-infected patients produced an enhanced inflammatory response to Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 as compared to APCs from healthy, HIV-negative controls. Increased APC expression of TLR2 and CD36, signaling through p38-MAPK, and decreased expression of MAP kinase phosphatase-1 (MKP-1) in HIV infection was associated with this heightened immune response. Our findings suggest that chronic HIV infection enhances the responsiveness of APCs to commensal lactobacilli, a mechanism that may partly contribute to chronic immune activation.