Bone deficits are frequent in HIV-1-infected patients. We report here that osteoclasts, the cells specialized in bone resorption, are infected by HIV-1 in vivo in humanized mice and ex vivo in human joint biopsies. In vitro, infection of human osteoclasts occurs at different stages of osteoclastogenesis via cell-free viruses and, more efficiently, by transfer from infected T cells. HIV-1 infection markedly enhances adhesion and osteolytic activity of human osteoclasts by modifying the structure and function of the sealing zone, the osteoclast-specific bone degradation machinery. Indeed, the sealing zone is broader due to F-actin enrichment of its basal units (i.e., the podosomes). The viral protein Nef is involved in all HIV-1-induced effects partly through the activation of Src, a regulator of podosomes and of their assembly as a sealing zone. Supporting these results, Nef-transgenic mice exhibit an increased osteoclast density and bone defects, and osteoclasts derived from these animals display high osteolytic activity. Altogether, our study evidences osteoclasts as host cells for HIV-1 and their pathological contribution to bone disorders induced by this virus, in part via Nef.
Keywords: HIV-1 infection; Nef; bone loss; osteoclast; podosome.