Primary human glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive (GFAP+) brain cells (enriched population) have successfully been infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) in vitro, when cocultivated with HIV-1-producing H9 cells. Direct incubation of brain cells with HIV-1 resulted only in a limited infection. The percentage of HIV+ cells increased from 5% in passage 1 to 40% in passage 8. Simultaneously with the increase of infected cells, the reverse transcriptase activity in the culture medium increased and reached maximal values in passage 8. The infected cells also produced intact viral particles. In the early phase of cultivation the HIV-infected cells displayed a significantly higher proliferation rate than the uninfected controls. At passage number 8 the HIV-infected GFAP+ cells had almost totally lost the ability to grow, while the controls proliferated at a rate almost unimpaired from the beginning of the cultivation. Up to 10 to 15% of the HIV-infected GFAP+ cells contained at passage number 5 more than 3 nuclei. Memantine (1-amino-3,5-dimethyladamantane), a blocker of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor channels, was found to display a significant anti-HIV effect (at a concentration of 1 microgram/ml) on enriched cultures of GFAP+ cells in vitro.