Viruses, Vol. 9, Pages 108: HIV-Enhancing and HIV-Inhibiting Properties of Cationic Peptides and Proteins

Cationic antimicrobial peptides and proteins have historically been ascribed roles in innate immunity that infer killing of microbial and viral pathogens and protection of the host. In the context of sexually transmitted HIV-1, we take an unconventional approach that questions this paradigm. It is becoming increasingly apparent that many of the cationic polypeptides present in the human genital or anorectal mucosa, or human semen, are capable of enhancing HIV-1 infection, often in addition to other reported roles as viral inhibitors. We explore how the in vivo environment may select for or against the HIV-enhancing aspects of these cationic polypeptides by focusing on biological relevance. We stress that the distinction between enhancing and inhibiting HIV-1 infection is not mutually exclusive to specific classes of cationic polypeptides. Understanding how virally enhancing peptides and proteins act to promote sexual transmission of HIV-1 would be important for the design of topical microbicides, mucosal vaccines, and other preventative measures.

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