Current HIV/AIDS Reports

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 151–168 | Cite as

Breaking the Glyco-Code of HIV Persistence and Immunopathogenesis

  • Florent Colomb
  • Leila B. Giron
  • Irena Trbojevic-Akmacic
  • Gordan Lauc
  • Mohamed Abdel-MohsenEmail author
HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment (AL Landay and NS Utay, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment


Purpose of review

Glycoimmunology is an emerging field focused on understanding how immune responses are mediated by glycans (carbohydrates) and their interaction with glycan-binding proteins called lectins. How glycans influence immunological functions is increasingly well understood. In a parallel way, in the HIV field, it is increasingly understood how the host immune system controls HIV persistence and immunopathogenesis. However, what has mostly been overlooked, despite its potential for therapeutic applications, is the role that the host glycosylation machinery plays in modulating the persistence and immunopathogenesis of HIV. Here, we will survey four areas in which the links between glycan-lectin interactions and immunology and between immunology and HIV are well described. For each area, we will describe these links and then delineate the opportunities for the HIV field in investigating potential interactions between glycoimmunology and HIV persistence/immunopathogenesis.

Recent findings

Recent studies show that the human glycome (the repertoire of human glycan structures) plays critical roles in driving or modulating several cellular processes and immunological functions that are central to maintaining HIV infection.


Understanding the links between glycoimmunology and HIV infection may create a new paradigm for discovering novel glycan-based therapies that can lead to eradication, functional cure, or improved tolerance of lifelong infection.


HIV persistence Glycosylation Galactosylation Sialylation Fucosylation Galectins 



The authors would like to thank Marli Markovitz for providing the artwork and graphic design ( and to Rachel E. Locke, Ph.D, who provided critical comments and editing.

Author Contributions

MA-M conceived and designed the review. All the authors wrote and edited the review.

Funding Information

MA-M is funded by the following grants: NIH (R21 AI129636, R21 NS106970, and P30CA010815-49S2), W.W. Smith Charitable Trust (grant # A1701), Campbell Foundation award, Penn Center for AIDS Research (P30 AI 045008), and The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) Impact grant # 109840-65-RGRL. MA-M is a member of the investigation team of the NIH-funded BEAT-HIV Martin Delaney Collaboratory to cure HIV-1 infection (1UM1Al126620). Additionally, GL is supported by funding from the European Structural and Investments funds for projects “New generation of high throughput glycoanalytical services” (contract # KK. and “Croatian National Centre of Research Excellence in Personalized Healthcare” (contract # KK.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

GL declares he is a founder and owner of Genos Ltd, a biotech company, that specializes in glycan analysis and has several patents in the field. IT-A is an employee of Genos Ltd. Other authors have no competing interests.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Florent Colomb
    • 1
  • Leila B. Giron
    • 1
  • Irena Trbojevic-Akmacic
    • 2
  • Gordan Lauc
    • 2
    • 3
  • Mohamed Abdel-Mohsen
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.The Wistar InstitutePhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Genos Glycoscience Research LaboratoryZagrebCroatia
  3. 3.Faculty of Pharmacy and BiochemistryUniversity of ZagrebZagrebCroatia

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