Macrophages and microglia are the principal target cells for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in brain, and as such, are likely participants in the neuropathology of HIV infection. In a model system for this process, we found that fluids from human monocyte cultures enhanced survival and differentiation of the neurons in fetal rat brain explants. In contrast, fluids from HIV-infected monocyte cultures were strongly toxic to neurons and paradoxically enhanced the proliferation of glial cells. Further, neuronotoxic activity in these fluids was mediated through activation of NMDA binding receptors on the neurons and was inhibited by any of several different NMDA antagonists. Neuronotoxic activity was directly related to contamination of the HIV virus stock with Mycoplasma arginini and M. hominis. Pure cultures of mycoplasma, bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS), or murine recombinant tumor necrosis factor alpha (rTNFα) each induced neuronotoxicity which exactly mirrored that induced by the contaminated HIV stock. It is likely that mycoplasma or components of the mycoplasma plasma membrane stimulate TNFα production by the glial cells in the brain explants. Indeed, careful depletion of glial cells in these explants prevented mycoplasma or LPS-mediated neuronotoxicity. No neuronotoxicity was evident with HIV-1 virus stock, HIV-1 gp 120, or culture fluids from HIV-infected T cells or monocytes when these preparations were free of contamination by mycoplasma and LPS. These findings suggest caution in interpretation of those experiments in which similar contamination has not been rigorously excluded.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases