Extracellular vesicles regulate gap junction-mediated intercellular communication and HIV-1 infection of human neural progenitor cells

Hyung Joon Cho, Martina Velichkovska, Nicolette Schurhoff, Ibolya E. András, Michal Toborek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105388
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Amyloid β
  • Connexins
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • HIV-1
  • Human neural progenitor cells
  • Pannexins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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