Sensory and sympathetic ganglia in HIV-1 infection: immunocytochemical demonstration of HIV-1 viral antigens, increased MHC class II antigen expression and mild reactive inflammation

J Neurol Sci. 1993 Feb;114(2):178-87. doi: 10.1016/0022-510x(93)90295-a.


Sensory and sympathetic ganglia from 12 cases of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection, all but one without clinical evidence of peripheral nerve disease, were studied immunocytochemically for their content of lymphocytes, macrophages, MHC Class II antigens and HIV-1 and cytomegalovirus antigens. They were compared with ganglia from 7 normal and peripheral nerve disease control cases. Compared with normal controls, many of the ganglia from the majority of HIV-1-infected subjects contained more T lymphocytes and macrophages and enhanced MHC class II expression. A few also showed occasional neuronal degeneration which was not present in the normal controls. In 7 cases HIV-1 gp41 envelope protein and/or p24 core protein antigens were detected in intraganglionic macrophages. Sensory ganglia contained more gp41 HIV-1 antigen than sympathetic ganglia. There was no clear correlation between detection of HIV-1 antigens in ganglia and in the CNS. Detection of HIV-1 antigens in ganglia was more common in cases of HIV-1 infection that had progressed to clinical AIDS by the time of death (71%) than in those that had not done so (40%). It is concluded that there is commonly a mild ganglionitis which is asymptomatic in the absence of detailed clinical testing and frequently associated with local presence of HIV-1 antigens in sensory and sympathetic ganglia in AIDS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / pathology*
  • Antigens, Viral / analysis*
  • Autopsy
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Blood Transfusion
  • Ganglia, Spinal / immunology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / microbiology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / pathology*
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / immunology
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / microbiology
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / pathology*
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / pathology*
  • HIV-1 / isolation & purification*
  • HLA-D Antigens / analysis*
  • Hemophilia A
  • Homosexuality
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons, Afferent / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology


  • Antigens, Viral
  • HLA-D Antigens