The general goal of the Section on Intercellular Interactions, led by Leonid Margolis, is to understand the mechanisms of sexual transmission of human pathogens, including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), to the human genital tract and their tissue pathogenesis and to develop efficient anti-virals. During the past year, the Section studied seminal cytokines, in particular their modulation during HIV-1 infection, revealing the importance of coinfecting herepesviruses which, together with HIV-1, alter the immunological landscape of semen. Herpesviruses are known to promote transmission and to facilitate pathogenesis. Herpesvirus-induced cytokines may serve as another target for the preventive strategy. Recently, the vaginally applied microbicide tenofovir was found to decrease transmission not only of HIV-1 but unexpectedly also of herpes simplex virus. The Section deciphered the mechanism of this effect, a finding that should prove useful for the development of multi-targeted antivirals. The current working hypothesis linking HIV-1 disease with atherosclerosis is that the progression of both diseases is fueled by inappropriate activation of the immune system. To test this hypothesis and to identify which aspects of immunoactivation play a critical role in both pathologies, the Section investigated the activation status of lymphocytes found in atherosclerotic plaques. The Section further developed and standardized the system of ex vivo tissues so as to make it reflect various in vivo aspects of intercellular interactions more faithfully than isolated cells in suspension or monolayers cultures and to broaden its application for the scientific community.
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