The meningeal lymphatic system: a route for HIV brain migration?

J Neurovirol. 2016 Jun;22(3):275-81. doi: 10.1007/s13365-015-0399-y. Epub 2015 Nov 16.


Two innovative studies recently identified functional lymphatic structures in the meninges that may influence the development of HIV-associated neurological disorders (HAND). Until now, blood vessels were assumed to be the sole transport system by which HIV-infected monocytes entered the brain by bypassing a potentially hostile blood-brain barrier through inflammatory-mediated semi-permeability. A cascade of specific chemokine signals promote monocyte migration from blood vessels to surrounding brain tissues via a well-supported endothelium, where the cells differentiate into tissue macrophages capable of productive HIV infection. Lymphatic vessels on the other hand are more loosely organized than blood vessels. They absorb interstitial fluid from bodily tissues where HIV may persist and exchange a variety of immune cells (CD4(+) T cells, monocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells) with surrounding tissues through discontinuous endothelial junctions. We propose that the newly discovered meningeal lymphatics are key to HIV migration among viral reservoirs and brain tissue during periods of undetectable plasma viral loads due to suppressive combinational antiretroviral therapy, thus redefining the migration process in terms of a blood-lymphatic transport system.

Keywords: HIV brain infection; Lymphatic system; Macrophage-targeted therapy; Meninges; Neurological disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Dementia Complex / immunology
  • AIDS Dementia Complex / pathology
  • AIDS Dementia Complex / virology*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / immunology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / virology
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / virology*
  • Cell Movement
  • Chemokines / biosynthesis
  • Chemokines / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / virology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / immunology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / virology
  • HIV-1 / pathogenicity
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic System / immunology
  • Lymphatic System / virology*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / virology
  • Meninges / immunology
  • Meninges / virology*
  • Monocytes / immunology
  • Monocytes / virology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Virus Internalization


  • Chemokines