Human primary endothelial cell cultures, derived from umbilical vein (HUVEC), can be infected by different strains of HIV-1, but mature virus production remains undetectable both in supernatants and in cellular extracts. Yet viral DNA is transiently detectable during the first days of infection, but progressively declines during the subsequent days. This finding is characteristic of abortive infections. Co-culture of HUVEC carrying HIV DNA with activated peripheral blood mononuclear cells or with CD 4-positive lymphoid cells elicited a massive cpe (syncytia formation and cell degeneration) in the latter cells, caused by the establishment of productive HIV-1 infection. HUVEC infected in the presence of AZT were significantly impaired in the ability to transmit the infection of CD 4-positive cells, indicating that active DNA synthesis is required in HUVEC before rescue by CD 4-positive cells. These results are of interest in view of the possibility that endothelial cells can play a role in the transmission of HIV-1 infection from infected pregnant women to the foetuses, and, more generally, suggest a potential role of endothelial cells as a transient reservoir of HIV-1.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology