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Arch Virol. 1998;143(8):1599-615.

Virological and molecular parameters of HIV-1 infection of human embryonic astrocytes.

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Laboratory of Virology, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.


Two different strains of HIV-1, the lymphotropic HIV-IIIB and the monocytotropic HIV-Ba-L, were able to infect tertiary cultures of astrocytes established from the human embryonic brain. The infection did not require contact with infected cells, as astrocytes were exposed to infectious cell-free supernatants. Except for an early transient peak of p24 consistently observed after infection with HIV-Ba-L, the infection of astrocytes appeared to be nonproductive. However, viral production was always observed when infected astrocytes were cocultured with permissive cells (CEM-SS or monocytes). To exclude the possibility that undetectable levels of virus are chronically produced by astrocytes, we exposed permissive cells to p24 negative supernatants taken from infected cultures. In such conditions permissive cells were never infected. Infection of astrocytes by HIV-1 was further supported by the finding that provirus persisted in these cells. Indeed, by a nested PCR, we detected HIV-1 DNA even one month after infection. Moreover, at the transcriptional level we observed expression of the multiply spliced RNA (tat and nef primers). Noteworthy, this pattern of HIV-1 expression did not change appreciably when astrocytes were pretreated and cultivated in the presence of IL-1 beta. Altogether, our data support the concept that astrocytes may play a role in the spread of HIV-1 infection within the brain and in the pathogenesis of neuro-AIDS.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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