Infection of foetal or embryonic brain cells and cell lines from human astrocytomas and gliomas with HIV1 derived from T-lymphoma cultures leads to the expression of HIV in about 1 to 2% of the cells in culture. Single-cell cloning of astrocytoma cells shortly after infection resulted in the establishment of persistently HIV1-infected cell lines. These cultures were characterized by low production of virus and moderate intra- and extracellular expression of structural proteins. However, high expression of the nef regulatory protein was found. The virus could be rescued by cocultivation with T cells and primary macrophages giving rise to typical syncytia formation. In contrast to infection with HIV-infected T-lymphoma lines, cocultivation with HIV1-infected primary macrophages or monocytic cell lines induced a reduction in the growth of astrocytes and failed to induce productive infection. These in vitro observations support the hypothesis that astrocytes and glial cells may be a reservoir for HIV in the central nervous system and that macrophages may not carry the virus to the brain, but rather may be infected in the brain after having penetrated the blood-brain barrier.