Long-term HIV-1 infection of neural progenitor populations

AIDS. 2007 Nov 12;21(17):2271-81. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0b013e3282f12f27.


Background: HIV can reside in the brain for many years. While astrocytes are known to tolerate long-term HIV infection, the potential of other neural cell types to harbour HIV is unclear.

Objective: To investigate whether HIV can persist in neural progenitor cell populations.

Design: A multipotent human neural stem cell line (HNSC.100) was used to compare HIV infection in neural progenitor and astrocyte cell populations.

Methods: Expression of cellular genes/proteins was analysed by real-time reverse transcriptase PCR, Western blot, immunocytochemistry and flow cytometry. Morphological properties of cells were measured by quantitative fluorescent image analysis. Virus release by cells exposed to HIV-1IIIB was monitored by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for Gag. Proviral copy numbers were determined by real-time PCR and early HIV transcripts by reverse transcriptase PCR. Rev activity was determined with a fluorescent-based reporter assay.

Results: Progenitor populations differed from astrocyte populations by showing much lower glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) production, higher cell-surface expression of the CXCR4 chemokine receptor, higher Rev activity and distinct cell morphologies. HIV-exposed progenitor cultures released moderate amounts of virus for over 2 months and continued to display cell-associated HIV markers (proviral DNA, early HIV transcripts) during the entire observation period (115 days). Differentiation of HIV-infected progenitor cells to astrocytes was associated with transient activation of virus production. Long-term HIV infection of progenitor populations led to upregulation of GFAP and changes in cell morphology.

Conclusion: These studies suggest that neural progenitor populations can contribute to the reservoir for HIV in the brain and undergo changes as a consequence of HIV persistence.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult Stem Cells / virology*
  • Astrocytes / virology
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Cell Line
  • Chronic Disease
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / analysis
  • HIV Core Protein p24 / analysis
  • HIV Infections / virology*
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neurons / virology*
  • Proviruses
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Time Factors
  • rev Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / analysis


  • Biomarkers
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • HIV Core Protein p24
  • rev Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus