The mechanism through which HIV-1 causes HIV dementia (HIVD) is not well understood. Myelin pallor is a common pathological finding in HIVD and could be explained by a direct infection of oligodendrocytes or interaction with HIV-1 gp 120. To determine if oligodendrocytes could be infected by HIV-1, we purified oligodendrocytes from adult human brain tissue obtained from temporal lobe resections. These cells were exposed to HIV-1 and infectivity was assayed by detection of p24(gag) antigen, PCR amplification, and cocultivation with CD4+ cells. These results indicate that HIV-1(IIIB and BaL) and one of four primary isolates tested can infect oligodendrocytes, resulting in the production of infectious virus. Furthermore, in an experiment that mimics a potential in vivo scenario, infected microglia were able to transmit virus to oligodendrocytes in a trans-well culture system. These experiments indicate that oligodendrocyte infection should be considered in studying the pathophysiology of HIVD.
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