Characterization of Macrophage-Tropic HIV-1 Infection of Central Nervous System Cells and the Influence of Inflammation

J Virol. 2022 Sep 14;96(17):e0095722. doi: 10.1128/jvi.00957-22. Epub 2022 Aug 17.


HIV-1 infection within the central nervous system (CNS) includes evolution of the virus, damaging inflammatory cascades, and the involvement of multiple cell types; however, our understanding of how Env tropism and inflammation can influence CNS infectivity is incomplete. In this study, we utilize macrophage-tropic and T cell-tropic HIV-1 Env proteins to establish accurate infection profiles for multiple CNS cells under basal and interferon alpha (IFN-α) or lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammatory states. We found that macrophage-tropic viruses confer entry advantages in primary myeloid cells, including monocyte-derived macrophage, microglia, and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived microglia. However, neither macrophage-tropic or T cell-tropic HIV-1 Env proteins could mediate infection of astrocytes or neurons, and infection was not potentiated by induction of an inflammatory state in these cells. Additionally, we found that IFN-α and LPS restricted replication in myeloid cells, and IFN-α treatment prior to infection with vesicular stomatitis virus G protein (VSV G) Envs resulted in a conserved antiviral response across all CNS cell types. Further, using RNA sequencing (RNA-seq), we found that only myeloid cells express HIV-1 entry receptor/coreceptor transcripts at a significant level and that these transcripts in select cell types responded only modestly to inflammatory signals. We profiled the transcriptional response of multiple CNS cells to inflammation and found 57 IFN-induced genes that were differentially expressed across all cell types. Taken together, these data focus attention on the cells in the CNS that are truly permissive to HIV-1, further highlight the role of HIV-1 Env evolution in mediating infection in the CNS, and point to limitations in using model cell types versus primary cells to explore features of virus-host interaction. IMPORTANCE The major feature of HIV-1 pathogenesis is the induction of an immunodeficient state in the face of an enhanced state of inflammation. However, for many of those infected, there can be an impact on the central nervous system (CNS) resulting in a wide range of neurocognitive defects. Here, we use a highly sensitive and quantitative assay for viral infectivity to explore primary and model cell types of the brain for their susceptibility to infection using viral entry proteins derived from the CNS. In addition, we examine the ability of an inflammatory state to alter infectivity of these cells. We find that myeloid cells are the only cell types in the CNS that can be infected and that induction of an inflammatory state negatively impacts viral infection across all cell types.

Keywords: HIV-1; HIV-1 CNS inflammation; HIV-1 Env evolution; HIV-1 astrocyte infection; HIV-1 microglia infection; HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders; macrophage-tropism; neuroHIV.

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System* / immunology
  • Central Nervous System* / pathology
  • Central Nervous System* / virology
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • HIV Infections* / immunology
  • HIV Infections* / pathology
  • HIV Infections* / virology
  • HIV-1* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Inflammation* / complications
  • Inflammation* / immunology
  • Inflammation* / pathology
  • Inflammation* / virology
  • Interferon-alpha / immunology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Macrophages* / cytology
  • Macrophages* / virology
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Microglia / cytology
  • Microglia / virology
  • RNA-Seq
  • Receptors, HIV / metabolism
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / metabolism
  • Virus Internalization
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / metabolism


  • G protein, vesicular stomatitis virus
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, HIV
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus