Blood-brain barrier dysfunction has been postulated to be important in the pathogenesis of HIV dementia. This study used an in vitro model of the blood-brain barrier to determine the effects of ovine lentivirus (OvLV) infection on endothelial cells. The replication of two American OvLV isolates and two Icelandic OvLV isolates in pure cultures of endothelial cells isolated from brain was compared to replication in endothelial cells from adipose, lung, and aorta. Inoculation with the two American isolates resulted in 100 times greater reverse transcriptase (RT) activity in supernatant of the microvascular endothelial cells (brain, lung, and adipose) than in the macrovascular endothelial cells (aorta). Conversely, inoculation with the two Icelandic isolates resulted in 100 times higher RT activity in aortic, lung, and adipose endothelial cells than in the brain endothelial cells. Transmission electron microscopy of the brain capillary endothelial cells infected with the American isolates revealed polarized viral budding from the lateral cell membrane and a loss of tight junctions. Replication of OvLV in brain capillary endothelial cells could play a role in the pathogenesis of lentiviral encephalitis by altering blood-brain barrier integrity.
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