Skip Navigation
NIH HHS News Release Logo
National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011

Skip Content Marketing
  • Share this:
  • submit to facebook
  • Tweet it
  • submit to reddit
  • submit to StumbleUpon
  • submit to Google +

NIH Scientists Unveil Characteristic of HIV Early in Transmission

A new finding from scientists at the National Institutes of Health could help efforts to design vaccines and other prevention tools to block HIV in the early stages of sexual transmission, before infection takes hold.  Researchers at the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have helped explain genetic differences that can distinguish some early-transmitting HIVs—viruses found in an infected individual within the first month after infection—from forms of HIV isolated later in infection. These genetic features help HIV bind tightly to a molecule called integrin α4β7. According to the scientists, the capacity to bind tightly to α4β7 likely enhances the ability of HIV to complete the many steps of sexual transmission and become the “founder” virus that establishes infection in an individual.

The study also sheds light on CD4+ T cells, the primary immune cell targeted by HIV. The authors previously reported that gp120, an HIV surface protein, can bind to integrin α4β7 via a receptor that may be present on the surface of the CD4+ T-cell. α4β7 helps direct HIV-infected CD4+ T cells into the gut, where the virus can then begin to replicate quickly. Given the new finding that certain early-transmitting isolates of HIV can have an affinity for α4β7, the scientists believe it is likely that CD4+ T cells with the α4β7 receptor play an important role in the sexual transmission of HIV. 

For more about NIAID HIV/AIDS research, visit the NIAID HIV/AIDS Web portal.

F Nawaz et al. The genotype of early-transmitting HIV gp120s promotes α4β7 reactivity, revealing α4β7+/CD4+ T cells as key targets in mucosal transmission. PloS Pathogens. DOI: ppat1001301 (2011).

NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is available for interviews.

To schedule interviews, please contact Laura Sivitz Leifman, 301-402-1663,

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health ®

back to top

Last Updated February 24, 2011

Last Reviewed February 24, 2011