Cocaine-mediated enhancement of virus replication in macrophages: Implications for human immunodeficiency virus-associated dementia

Navneet K. Dhillon, Rachel Williams, Fuwang Peng, Yi Jou Tsai, Sukhbir Dhillon, Brandon Nicolay, Milind Gadgil, Anil Kumar, Shilpa J. Buch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Injection drug use has been recognized as a major risk factor for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) from the outset of the epidemic. Cocaine, one of the most widely abused drugs in the United States, can both impair the functions of macrophages and CD4+ lymphocytes and also activate human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 expression in these cells. Because the brain is the target organ for both cocaine and HIV, the objective of the present study was to explore the effects of cocaine on virus replication in macrophages, the target cells for the virus in the central nervous system (CNS). Cocaine markedly enhanced virus production in simian human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV)-infected monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs) and in U1 cells, a chronically infected promonocytic cell line as monitored by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and immunocytochemistry. Cocaine treatment also resulted in the activation of nuclear factor (NF)-κB and transcriptional activation of the HIV-LTR (long terminal repeat) gag-GFP (green fluorescent protein). Analyses of chemokines in cocaine-treated macrophages by real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and Luminex assays suggested increased expression of interleukin (IL)-10, a cytokine that is known to promote HIV replication in MDMs. In addition to enhancing IL-10 expression, cocaine also caused an up-regulation of the macrophage activation marker, human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR, in MDMs. The synergistic effect of cocaine on virus replication and its enhancement of host activation markers suggest that cocaine functions at multiple pathways to accelerate HIV-associated dementia (HAD).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-495
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of neurovirology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cocaine
  • HIV-1
  • IL-10

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Virology


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