Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection of U937 cells promotes cell differentiation and a new pathway of viral assembly

Virology. 1990 Dec;179(2):749-58. doi: 10.1016/0042-6822(90)90142-e.


The differentiation of U937 monoblastoid cells after human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection was studied using the following approaches: reverse transcriptase activity measurement, immunofluorescence labeling, and electron microscopy. For comparison, uninfected U937 cells were induced to differentiate from monocyte to macrophage by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) or retinoic acid (RA) treatment. Both infected and drug-treated cells showed important and similar ultrastructural cell modifications, with a phenotype that decreased in monocyte specificity and increased in that of macrophages. When U937 cells were induced to differentiate upon HIV-1 infection, a very different pathway of viral production was observed. Production and accumulation of the virus in a vacuolar compartment of intracytoplasmic origin and escape to the antiviral lysosomal activity could explain virus persistence. This makes the cell system a good model with which to study the relationship between HIV-1 production and cell differentiation.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / analysis
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / ultrastructure
  • HIV / growth & development*
  • HIV Infections / microbiology
  • HIV Infections / pathology*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Monocytes / microbiology*
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate / pharmacology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Vacuoles / ultrastructure
  • Virus Replication


  • Antigens, CD
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate