HIV infects macrophages and microglia in the central nervous system (CNS), which express lower levels of CD4 than CD4+ T cells in peripheral blood. To investigate mechanisms of HIV neurotropism, full-length env genes were cloned from autopsy brain and lymphoid tissues from 4 AIDS patients with HIV-associated dementia (HAD). Characterization of 55 functional Env clones demonstrated that Envs with reduced dependence on CD4 for fusion and viral entry are more frequent in brain compared to lymphoid tissue. Envs that mediated efficient entry into macrophages were frequent in brain but were also present in lymphoid tissue. For most Envs, entry into macrophages correlated with overall fusion activity at all levels of CD4 and CCR5. gp160 nucleotide sequences were compartmentalized in brain versus lymphoid tissue within each patient. Proline at position 308 in the V3 loop of gp120 was associated with brain compartmentalization in 3 patients, but mutagenesis studies suggested that P308 alone does not contribute to reduced CD4 dependence or macrophage-tropism. These results suggest that HIV adaptation to replicate in the CNS selects for Envs with reduced CD4 dependence and increased fusion activity. Macrophage-tropic Envs are frequent in brain but are also present in lymphoid tissues of AIDS patients with HAD, and entry into macrophages in the CNS and other tissues is dependent on the ability to use low receptor levels and overall efficiency of fusion.
- Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV)
- Lymph node
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