Macrophage chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) may be a key trigger for the influx of macrophages into the brain in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) encephalitis. In this study, simian immunodeficiency virus-infected macaques that developed moderate-to-severe encephalitis had significantly higher MCP-1 levels in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) than in plasma as early as 28 days after inoculation, which was before the development of brain lesions. In contrast, CSF:plasma MCP-1 ratios remained constant at preinoculation levels in macaques that developed minimal or no encephalitis. Abundant MCP-1 protein and mRNA were detected in both macrophages and astrocytes in the brain. Macaques with increased MCP-1 in CSF had significantly greater expression of markers of macrophage and microglia activation and infiltration (CD68; P= .003) and astrocyte activation (glial fibrillary acidic protein; P= .019 and P= .031 in white and gray matter, respectively). The results suggest that the CSF:plasma MCP-1 ratio may be a valuable prognostic marker for the development of HIV-induced central nervous system disease.