Human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and cause HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) through a process that may involve direct or indirect interactions with the central nervous system (CNS) cells and alterations of amyloid β (Aβ) homeostasis. The present study focused on the mechanisms of HIV-1 infecting human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs) and affecting NPC intercellular communications with human brain endothelial cells (HBMEC). Despite the lack of the CD4 receptor, hNPCs were effectively infected by HIV-1 via a mechanism involving the chemokine receptors, CXCR4 and CCR5. HIV-1 infection increased expression of connexin-43 (Cx43), phosphorylated Cx43 (pCx43), and pannexin 2 (Panx2) protein levels in hNPCs, suggesting alterations in gap-junction (GJ) and pannexin channel communication. Indeed, a functional GJ assay indicated an increase in communication between HIV-infected hNPCs and non-infected HBMEC. We next analyzed the impact of HBMEC-derived extracellular vesicles (EVs) and EVs carrying Aβ (EV-Aβ) on the expression of Cx43, pCx43, and Panx2 in HIV-1 infected and non-infected hNPCs. Exposure to EV-Aβ resulted in significant reduction of Cx43 and pCx43 protein expression in non-infected hNPCs when compared to EV controls. Interestingly, EV-Aβ treatment significantly increased levels of Cx43, pCx43, and Panx2 in HIV-1-infected hNPCs when compared to non-infected controls. These results were confirmed in a GJ functional assay and an ATP release assay, which is an indicator of connexin hemichannel and/or pannexin channel functions. Overall, the current study demonstrates the importance of hNPCs in HIV-1 infection and indicates that intercellular communications between infected hNPCs and HBMEC can be effectively modulated by EVs carrying Aβ as their cargo.
- Amyloid β
- Extracellular vesicles
- Human neural progenitor cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas