The perivascular location of human immunodeficiency virus-infected cells suggests that the virus enters the central nervous system (CNS) by traversing the blood-brain barrier (BBB). In this study, the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) macaque model was used to determine whether SIV infects CNS endothelial cells. SIV RNA was detected in capillary endothelial cells in brain sections from animals parenterally inoculated with a neurovirulent strain of SIV by double immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization and by reverse transcriptase-in situ PCR. These in vivo observations were extended by examining whether SIV replicated productively in cultured macaque brain endothelial cells (MBEC). A neurovirulent strain, SIVmac239/17E-Br, replicated productively in MBEC as determined by the presence of viral cytopathic effect (syncytia), viral DNA by PCR, viral RNA by in situ hybridization, and viral antigen by immunohistochemistry and by the production of high titers of cell-free virus. Virus replication was confirmed by electron microscopy. In contrast, a nonneurovirulent strain, SIVmac239, did not infect MBEC. Infection of the endothelial cells was not blocked by soluble CD4. Thus, endothelial cells may provide a CD4-independent pathway of virus entry to the CNS. In addition, damage to the BBB as a result of endothelial cell infection may provide a mechanism for amplification of viral load in the CNS and may contribute to the CNS dysfunction that characterizes AIDS dementia and SIV encephalitis. These data suggest that MBEC may serve a selective role in determining virus entry to the CNS.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science