Defining brain pericytes as a novel and myeloid-derived HIV reservoir

Project: Research project

Project Details


ABSTRACT HIV-1-infected individuals are at a higher risk for non-AIDS related co-morbidities, including cerebrovascular and neurological diseases. These pathologies may be driven, at least in part, by low levels of viral replication that persist in HIV-infected brains, which can lead to immune activation, chronic inflammation, and viral reactivation. Experiments on microglia, astrocytes, and brain pericytes indicate that these cells are all capable, to different degrees, to harbor HIV infection. We have pioneered research on HIV-1 infection in brain pericytes, and indicated that these cells possess the receptor profile enabling HIV-1 infection. Recent evidence on pericyte ontogeny identified that a substantial subpopulation of brain pericytes originates from myeloid progenitors. We recently demonstrated HIV-1-infected pericytes in human brains with HIV encephalitis. Furthermore, our new and exciting preliminary data suggest that brain pericytes may be capable of latent infection and reactivation, similar to other myeloid cells. Based on these observations, we hypothesize that brain pericytes are a key, albeit previously unrecognized, cell type for the formation of HIV-1 reservoirs in the CNS. The overarching goal of the current proposal is to characterize the latent HIV- 1 infection in brain pericytes as the necessary step for successful eradication of CNS reservoirs and HIV cure. Consistent with this goal, Specific Aims will evaluate the formation of latent HIV infection in brain pericytes both in vivo and in vitro. In a cohort of human brain samples with a history of achieved viral suppression obtained from the National NeuroAIDS Tissue Consortium (NNTC), we will determine whether brain pericytes harbor latent HIV-1 infections in HIV-suppressed patients (Aim 1). In addition, we will evaluate transcriptional signatures of latently HIV-1-infected human primary brain pericytes (Aim 2), and delineate functional outcomes associated with HIV infection of brain pericytes (Aim 3). The focus on the role of pericytes in the development of viral brain HIV reservoirs is an innovative and cutting- edge conceptual approach, consistent with the current RFA. Focusing on pericytes as a novel myeloid cell population in the context of HIV-1 infection and brain reservoirs has also a paradigm-changing potential and is likely to lead to new discoveries in the field. The planned experiments will help us to better characterize the pericyte reservoirs in the CNS in order to design future therapies for reservoir clearance and HIV cure.
Effective start/end date7/1/214/30/22


  • National Institute of Mental Health: $483,642.00


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