Background Human defensins are small cationic peptides with anti-bacterial and anti-viral activity. Beta defensins are expressed by epithelial cells and innate immune cells in tissue and circulating leukocytes, respectively. They are part of the first line of innate immune defense against invading pathogens at mucosal sites. Methods We investigated anti-HIV activity and production of beta defensins in intestinal mucosal biopsies and PBMCs from individuals with chronic untreated HIV, immunologically controlled HIV, acute HIV and HIV uninfected individuals using ELISA, immunohistochemistry, quantitative PCR and viral inhibition assays. Results Human beta defensin expression in PBMCs was found exclusively in classical monocytes whereas epithelial cells were found to be the main source in the intestinal tract. Expression of human beta defensins was not altered in gut tissue or PBMCs from HIV progressors and controller compared to HIV negative control sample. However, we observed increased expression in PBMCs from HIV acute patient samples. Further, recombinant human beta defensins showed anti-HIV activity in vitro. Conclusions Our data suggest that beta defensins have a direct effect on HIV and might act as an intrinsic antiviral factor early during HIV infection. Specific delivery of recombinant defensins might be a powerful tool to reduce viral burden during acute infection.
- Copyright © 2013 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.