PloS one 2017 09 2112(9) e0185138 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0185138
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is the feline analogue of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and features many hallmarks of HIV infection and pathogenesis, including the development of concurrent oral lesions. While HIV is typically transmitted via parenteral transmucosal contact, recent studies prove that oral transmission can occur, and that saliva from infected individuals contains significant amounts of HIV RNA and DNA. While it is accepted that FIV is primarily transmitted by biting, few studies have evaluated FIV oral infection kinetics and transmission mechanisms over the last 20 years. Modern quantitative analyses applied to natural FIV oral infection could significantly further our understanding of lentiviral oral disease and transmission. We therefore characterized FIV salivary viral kinetics and antibody secretions to more fully document oral viral pathogenesis. Our results demonstrate that: (i) saliva of FIV-infected cats contains infectious virus particles, FIV viral RNA at levels equivalent to circulation, and lower but significant amounts of FIV proviral DNA; (ii) the ratio of FIV RNA to DNA is significantly higher in saliva than in circulation; (iii) FIV viral load in oral lymphoid tissues (tonsil, lymph nodes) is significantly higher than mucosal tissues (buccal mucosa, salivary gland, tongue); (iv) salivary IgG antibodies increase significantly over time in FIV-infected cats, while salivary IgA levels remain static; and, (v) saliva from naïve Specific Pathogen Free cats inhibits FIV growth in vitro. Collectively, these results suggest that oral lymphoid tissues serve as a site for enhanced FIV replication, resulting in accumulation of FIV particles and FIV-infected cells in saliva. Failure to induce a virus-specific oral mucosal antibody response, and/or viral capability to overcome inhibitory components in saliva may perpetuate chronic oral cavity infection. Based upon these findings, we propose a model of oral FIV pathogenesis and suggest alternative diagnostic modalities and translational approaches to study oral HIV infection.