Reduced antiretroviral drug efficacy and concentration in HIV-infected microglia contributes to viral persistence in brain

Eugene L. Asahchop, Oussama Meziane, Manmeet K. Mamik, Wing F. Chan, William G. Branton, Lothar Resch, M. John Gill, Elie Haddad, Jean V. Guimond, Mark A. Wainberg, Glen B. Baker, Eric A. Cohen, Christopher Power

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44 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In patients with HIV/AIDS receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART), HIV-1 persistence in brain tissue is a vital and unanswered question. HIV-1 infects and replicates in resident microglia and trafficking macrophages within the brain although the impact of individual ART drugs on viral infection within these brain myeloid cells is unknown. Herein, the effects of contemporary ART drugs were investigated using in vitro and in vivo models of HIV-1 brain infection. Results: The EC50 values for specific ART drugs in HIV-infected human microglia were significantly higher compared to bone marrow-derived macrophages and peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Intracellular ART drug concentrations in microglia were significantly lower than in human lymphocytes. In vivo brain concentrations of ART drugs in mice were 10 to 100-fold less in brain tissues compared with plasma and liver levels. In brain tissues from untreated HIV-infected BLT mice, HIV-encoded RNA, DNA and p24 were present in human leukocytes while ART eradicated viral RNA and DNA in both brain and plasma. Interruption of ART resulted in detectable viral RNA and DNA and increased human CD68 expression in brains of HIV-infected BLT mice. In aviremic HIV/AIDS patients receiving effective ART, brain tissues that were collected within hours of last ART dosing showed HIV-encoded RNA and DNA with associated neuroinflammatory responses. Conclusions: ART drugs show variable concentrations and efficacies in brain myeloid cells and tissues in drug-specific manner. Despite low drug concentrations in brain, experimental ART suppressed HIV-1 infection in brain although HIV/AIDS patients receiving effective ART had detectable HIV-1 in brain. These findings suggest that viral suppression in brain is feasible but new approaches to enhancing ART efficacy and concentrations in brain are required for sustained HIV-1 eradication from brain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number47
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Antiretroviral therapy
  • BLT mouse
  • HIV-1
  • Macrophages
  • Microglia
  • Nervous system

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