Host immune responses in HIV-1 infection: The emerging pathogenic role of siglecs and their clinical correlates

Joanna Mikulak, Clara Di Vito, Elisa Zaghi, Domenico Mavilio

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A better understanding of the mechanisms employed by HIV-1 to escape immune responses still represents one of the major tasks required for the development of novel therapeutic approaches targeting a disease still lacking a definitive cure. Host innate immune responses against HIV-1 are key in the early phases of the infection as they could prevent the development and the establishment of two hallmarks of the infection: chronic inflammation and viral reservoirs. Sialic acid-binding immunoglobulin-like lectins (Siglecs) belong to a family of transmembrane proteins able to dampen host immune responses and set appropriate immune activation thresholds upon ligation with their natural ligands, the sialylated carbohydrates. This immune-modulatory function is also targeted by many pathogens that have evolved to express sialic acids on their surface in order to escape host immune responses. HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein 120 (gp120) is extensively covered by carbohydrates playing active roles in life cycle of the virus. Indeed, besides forming a protecting shield from antibody recognition, this coat of N-linked glycans interferes with the folding of viral glycoproteins and enhances virus infectivity. In particular, the sialic acid residues present on gp120 can bind Siglec-7 on natural killer and monocytes/macrophages and Siglec-1 on monocytes/macrophages and dendritic cells. The interactions between these two members of the Siglec family and the sialylated glycans present on HIV-1 envelope either induce or increase HIV-1 entry in conventional and unconventional target cells, thus contributing to viral dissemination and disease progression. In this review, we address the impact of Siglecs in the pathogenesis of HIV-1 infection and discuss how they could be employed as clinic and therapeutic targets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number314
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberMAR
Publication statusPublished - Mar 23 2017


  • Dendritic cells
  • Host-pathogen interactions
  • Monocytes/macrophages
  • NK cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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