HIV-1 infection of the brain results in a large number of behavioural defecits accompanied by diverse neuropathological signs. However,it is not clear how the virus produces these effects or exactly how the neuropathology and behavioural defecits are related. In this article we discuss the possibility that HIV-1 infection may negatively impact the process of neurogenesis in the adult brain and that this may contribute to HIV-1 related effects on the nervous system. We have previously demonstrated that the development of the dentate gyrus during embryogenesis requires signaling by the chemokine SDF-1 via its receptor CXCR4. We demonstrated that neural progenitor cells that give rise to dentate granule neurons express CXCR4 and other chemokine receptors and migrate into the nascent dentate gyrus along SDF-1 gradients. Animals deficient in CXCR4 receptors exhibit a malformed dentate gyrus in which the migration of neural progenitors is stalled. In the adult, neurogenesis continues in the dentate gyrus. Adult neural progenitor cells existing in the subgranlar zone, that produce granule neurons, express CXCR4 and other chemokine receptors, and granule neurons express SDF-1 suggesting that SDF-1/CXCR4 signaling is also important in adult neurogenesis. Because the cellular receptors for HIV-1 include chemokine receptors such as CXCR4 and CCR5 it is possible that the virus may interfere with SDF-1/CXCR4 signaling in the brain including disruption of the formation of new granule neurons in the adult brain.
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