Vaginal transmission is crucial to the spread of HIV-1 around the world. It is not yet clear what type(s) of innate defenses against HIV-1 infection are present in the vagina. Here, we aimed to determine whether human vaginal fluid contains exosomes that may possess anti-HIV-1 activity.
The exosomal fraction was isolated from samples of vaginal fluids. The presence of exosomes was confirmed by flow cytometry and western blotting. The newly discovered exosomes were tested for their ability to block early steps of HIV-1 infection in vitro using established cell culture systems and real time PCR-based methods.
Vaginal fluid contains exosomes expressing CD9, CD63 and CD81 exosomal markers. The exosomal fraction of the fluid reduced transmission of HIV-1 vectors by 60%, the efficiency of reverse transcription step by 58.4%, and the efficiency of integration by 47%. Exosomes had no effect on the entry of HIV-1 vectors.
Human vaginal fluid exosomes are newly discovered female innate defenses that may protect women against HIV-1 infection.