A unique aspect of human monocytes, compared to monocytes from many other species, is that they express the CD4 molecule. However, the role of the CD4 molecule in human monocyte development and function is not known. We determined that the activation of CD4 via interaction with major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II) triggers cytokine expression and the differentiation of human monocytes into functional mature macrophages. Importantly, we determined that CD4 activation induces intracellular signaling in monocytes and that inhibition of the MAPK and Src family kinase pathways blocked the ability of CD4 ligation to trigger macrophage differentiation. We observed that ligation of CD4 by MHC-II on activated endothelial cells induced CD4-mediated macrophage differentiation of blood monocytes. Finally, CD4 ligation by MHC-II increases the susceptibility of blood-derived monocytes to HIV binding and subsequent infection. Altogether, our studies have identified a novel function for the CD4 molecule on peripheral monocytes and suggest that a unique set of events that lead to innate immune activation differ between humans and mice. Further, these events can have effects on HIV infection and persistence in the macrophage compartment.
Importance: The CD4 molecule, as the primary receptor for HIV, plays an important role in HIV pathogenesis. There are many cell types that express CD4 other than the primary HIV target, the CD4(+) T cell. Other than allowing HIV infection, the role of the CD4 molecule on human monocytes or macrophages is not known. We were interested in determining the role of CD4 in human monocyte/macrophage development and function and the potential effects of this on HIV infection. We identified a role for the CD4 molecule in triggering the activation and development of a monocyte into a macrophage following its ligation. Activation of the monocyte through the CD4 molecule in this manner increases the ability of monocytes to bind to and become infected with HIV. Our studies have identified a novel function for the CD4 molecule on peripheral monocytes in triggering macrophage development that has direct consequences for HIV infection.
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