Objective: Abacavir and didanosine are nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI) widely used in therapy for HIV-infection but which have been linked to cardiovascular complications. The objective of this study was to analyze the effects of clinically relevant doses of abacavir and didanosine on human leukocyte-endothelium interactions and to compare them with those of other NRTIs.
Design and methods: The interactions between human leukocytes - specifically peripheral blood polymorphonuclear (PMN) or mononuclear (PBMC) cells - and human umbilical vein endothelial cells were evaluated in a flow chamber system that reproduces conditions in vivo. The expression of adhesion molecules was analyzed by flow cytometry.
Results: Abacavir induced a dose-dependent increase in PMN and PBMC rolling and adhesion. This was reproduced by didanosine but not by lamivudine or zidovudine. Both abacavir and didanosine increased Mac-1 expression in neutrophils and monocytes, but produced no effects on either lymphocytes or the expression of endothelial adhesion molecules. The PMN/PBMC rolling and adhesion induced by abacavir or didanosine did not occur when antibodies against Mac-1 or its ligand ICAM-1 were blocked.
Conclusion: Abacavir induces significant human leukocyte accumulation through the activation of Mac-1, which in turn interacts with its endothelial ligand ICAM-1. The fact that didanosine exhibits similar effects and that lamivudine and zidovudine do not points to a relationship between the chemical structure of NRTIs and the induction of leukocyte/endothelial cell interactions. This mechanism may be especially relevant to the progression of the vascular damage associated with atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction in abacavir and didanosine-treated patients.