Macrophages: A crucial reservoir for human immunodeficiency virus in the body

E. Balestra, C. F. Perno, S. Aquaro, S. Panti, A. Bertoli, M. Piacentini, F. Forbici, R. D'Arrigo, R. Calió, E. Garaci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The replication of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in cells of macrophage lineage represents a key pathogenetic event of the neurological damages typically found during the course of this disease. Macrophages are persistently infected cells and thus not susceptible to the cytophatic effect typical of infected activated CD4-lymphocytes. The resistance of macrophages to HIV infection is at least in part mediated by the autocrine production of the nerve growth factor (NGF), a neurokine able to sustain the survival of some cells of bone marrow origin, including monocyte-derived macrophages. This anti-apoptotic effect of NGF in HIV-infected macrophages can be even more relevant at the central nervous system level, where many cells are able to physiologically produce NGF, thus further increasing the survival of macrophages infected by HIV, and enhancing the damages that these cells may induce upon bystander neurons. The proapoptotic effect of soluble factors released by HIV-infected macrophages may heavily affect the survival and functions also of astrocytes, that in turn become unable to sustain neuronal homeostasis. Taken together, this information supports the importance of therapeutic attempts aimed at attacking virus replication in infected macrophages and/or to selectively eliminate these chronically infected and persistently virus-producing cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-276
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • AIDS-dementia complex
  • Astrocytes
  • CNS
  • NGF
  • Therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Endocrinology
  • Physiology
  • Immunology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology (medical)


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