Derivation of neurotropic simian immunodeficiency virus from exclusively lymphocytetropic parental virus: Pathogenesis of infection in macaques

D. P. Sharma, M. C. Zink, M. Anderson, R. Adams, J. E. Clements, S. V. Joag, O. Narayan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Scopus citations


Neurological disease resulting from lentivirus (including human immunodeficiency virus) infections is usually caused by a strain of virus that replicates productively in microglia in vivo and in macrophage cultures in vitro. We undertook this study using the model of simian immunodeficiency virus in macaques (SIVmac) to test the hypothesis that macrophage tropism is a prerequisite for neurotropism of the virus. Using molecularly cloned SIVmac239, a virus which is lymphocyte- but not macrophagetropic, we showed that this virus failed to infect brain after intracerebral (i.c.) inoculation into two macaques. Rather, these inoculations resulted in disseminated infection in lymphoid organs and the bone marrow. Two sequential passages of infected bone marrow cells inoculated i.c. into new macaques resulted in severe neurological disease and classical neuropathological lesions. Virus obtained from affected brain answered the hypothetical question: it was neurotropic and macrophagetropic. New findings in the study were that both lymphocyte- and macrophagetropic viruses were present in the animals, but the viruses localized in different tissues: the lymphotropic virus in the spleen, lymph nodes, and plasma and the macrophagetropic virus in the brain and lungs. To determine whether the brain virus was preferentially neurotropic and whether it had neuroinvasive properties, infectious brain homogenate was inoculated into one animal i.c. and into two others peripherally. The i.c. inoculated animal developed fatal encephalitis 5 months later, and examination of tissues showed cell-free virus only in brain homogenates. Only microglia were infected despite persistent viremia and infection in bone marrow cells. The two macaques inoculated peripherally remained healthy and were euthanized at 6 months. Virus replication was detected only in the bone marrow cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells. No infection in any macrophage population in visceral organs was detected, and the virus did not invade the brain. The strictly microglial specificity of this virus suggested that different macrophage populations in the body may select specific phenotypes of lentivirus from the quasispecies of virus in the bone marrow. This could provide the basis for specific disease affecting different organ systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3550-3556
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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