HIV most commonly uses CCR5 and/or CXCR4 as a co-receptor to enter its target cells. Several chemokine receptors can function as viral coreceptors, but CCR5 is likely the most physiologically important coreceptor during natural infection. The normal ligands for this receptor, RANTES, MIP-1β, and MIP-1α, are able to suppress HIV-1 infection in vitro. In individuals infected with HIV, CCR5-using viruses are the predominant species isolated during the early stages of viral infection, suggesting that these viruses may have a selective advantage during transmission or the acute phase of disease. Moreover, at least half of all infected individuals harbor only CCR5-using viruses throughout the course of infection.
A number of new experimental HIV drugs, called CCR5 receptor antagonists, have been designed to interfere with the interaction between CCR5 and HIV, including PRO140 (Progenics), Vicriviroc (Schering Plough), Aplaviroc (GW-873140) (GlaxoSmithKline) and Maraviroc (UK-427857) (Pfizer). A potential problem of this approach is that, while CCR5 is the major co-receptor by which HIV infects cells, it is not the only such co-receptor. It is possible that under selective pressure HIV will evolve to use another co-receptor. However, examination of viral resistance to AD101, molecular antagonist of CCR5, indicated that resistant viruses did not switch to another coreceptor (CXCR4) but persisted in using CCR5, either through binding to alternative domains of CCR5, or by binding to the receptor at a higher affinity.