Higher circulating intermediate monocytes are associated with cognitive function in women with HIV

JCI Insight. 2021 Jun 8;6(11):e146215. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.146215.


BACKGROUNDIdentifying a quantitative biomarker of neuropsychiatric dysfunction in people with HIV (PWH) remains a significant challenge in the neuroHIV field. The strongest evidence to date implicates the role of monocytes in central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction in HIV, yet no study has examined monocyte subsets in blood as a correlate and/or predictor of neuropsychiatric function in virally suppressed PWH.METHODSIn 2 independent cohorts of virologically suppressed women with HIV (vsWWH; n = 25 and n = 18), whole blood samples were obtained either in conjunction with neuropsychiatric assessments (neuropsychological [NP] test battery, self-report depression and stress-related symptom questionnaires) or 1 year prior to assessments. Immune cell subsets were assessed by flow cytometry.RESULTSA higher proportion of intermediate monocytes (CD14+CD16+) was associated with lower global NP function when assessing monocytes concurrently and approximately 1 year before (predictive) NP testing. The same pattern was seen for executive function (mental flexibility) and processing speed. Conversely, there were no associations with monocyte subsets and depression or stress-related symptoms. Additionally, we found that a higher proportion of classical monocytes was associated with better cognition.CONCLUSIONAlthough it is widely accepted that lentiviral infection of the CNS targets cells of monocyte-macrophage-microglial lineage and is associated with an increase in intermediate monocytes in the blood and monocyte migration into the brain, the percentage of intermediate monocytes in blood of vsWWH has not been associated with neuropsychiatric outcomes. Our findings provide evidence for a new, easily measured, blood-based cognitive biomarker in vsWWH.FUNDINGR01-MH113512, R01-MH113512-S, P30-AI094189, R01-MH112391, R01-AI127142, R00-DA044838, U01-AI35004, and P30-MH075673.

Keywords: AIDS/HIV; Immunology; Monocytes; Neurological disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cognition*
  • Depression / immunology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Executive Function
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Sustained Virologic Response


  • Anti-HIV Agents