Journal of virology

Contact-induced mitochondrial polarization supports HIV-1 virological synapse formation.

PMID 25320323


Rapid HIV-1 spread between CD4 T lymphocytes occurs at retrovirus-induced immune cell contacts called virological synapses (VS). VS are associated with striking T cell polarization and localized virus budding at the site of contact that facilitates cell-cell spread. In addition to this, spatial clustering of organelles, including mitochondria, to the contact zone has been previously shown. However, whether cell-cell contact specifically induces dynamic T cell remodeling during VS formation and what regulates this process remain unclear. Here, we report that contact between an HIV-1-infected T cell and an uninfected target T cell specifically triggers polarization of mitochondria concomitant with recruitment of the major HIV-1 structural protein Gag to the site of cell-cell contact. Using fixed and live-cell imaging, we show that mitochondrial and Gag polarization in HIV-1-infected T cells occurs within minutes of contact with target T cells, requires the formation of stable cell-cell contacts, and is an active, calcium-dependent process. We also find that perturbation of mitochondrial polarization impairs cell-cell spread of HIV-1 at the VS. Taken together, these data suggest that HIV-1-infected T cells are able to sense and respond to contact with susceptible target cells and undergo dynamic cytoplasmic remodeling to create a synaptic environment that supports efficient HIV-1 VS formation between CD4 T lymphocytes. HIV-1 remains one of the major global health challenges of modern times. The capacity of HIV-1 to cause disease depends on the virus's ability to spread between immune cells, most notably CD4 T lymphocytes. Cell-cell transmission is the most efficient way of HIV-1 spread and occurs at the virological synapse (VS). The VS forms at the site of contact between an infected cell and an uninfected cell and is characterized by polarized assembly and budding of virions and clustering of cellular organelles, including mitochondria. Here, we show that cell-cell contact induces rapid recruitment of mitochondria to the contact site and that this supports efficient VS formation and consequently cell-cell spread. Additionally, we observed that cell-cell contact induces a mitochondrion-dependent increase in intracellular calcium, indicative of cellular signaling. Taken together, our data suggest that VS formation is a regulated process and thus a potential target to block HIV-1 cell-cell spread.

Related Materials