Kaposi sarcoma (KS), the most common neoplasm in patients with AIDS, typically presents with multiple skin lesions characterized by "spindle cells," the vast majority of which are infected with KSHV (Kaposi sarcoma herpes virus, also named HHV-8). In patients with AIDS, the presence of cell-associated KSHV DNA in blood is predictive of subsequent KS development, but the mechanisms by which circulating KSHV-infected cells contribute to AIDS-KS pathogenesis are unclear. Here, we show that the chemokine stromal-derived factor-1 (SDF-1), which is constitutively expressed by skin capillary endothelium and displayed on the endothelial cell surface in association with heparan sulfate, can trigger specific arrest of KSHV-infected cells under physiologic shear flow conditions. Moreover, in the presence of soluble SDF-1 gradients, SDF-1 expressed on the endothelial barrier can promote transendothelial migration of KSHV-infected cells. By triggering specific adhesion of circulating KSHV-infected cells and favoring their entry into the extravascular cutaneous space, endothelial cell-associated SDF-1 in cutaneous capillaries may dictate the preferential occurrence of KS in the skin.
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