In previous studies, using polymerase chain reaction amplification of HIV-1 genes directly from pathologic tissues of children who died with AIDS encephalopathy, we showed that the reading frame of the HIV-1 regulatory nef gene is open, suggesting that the nef protein was expressed. We now show, using immunocytoehemistry and in situ hybridization with nef-specific probes in postmortem pediatric CNS tissues, that nef mRNA and protein are present in up to 20% of astrocytes in tissue sections selected for extensive histopathology. By contrast, HIV-1 structural proteins such as gag and their coding mRNAs are present in multinucleated giant cells that harbor productive infection and are the hallmark of HIV-1 infection in the CNS. These findings are consistent with the nonproductive infection of glial cells observed in vitro, and imply that HIV-1 infection of astrocytes is restricted to early regulatory gene products, of which nef is the best target as it is expressed at high levels and is membrane-anchored. In developing central nervous tissues of children, restricted and latent HIV-1 infection of astrocytes may be extensive and contribute significantly to HIV-1 neuropathogenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology