Drug-loaded red blood cell-mediated clearance of HIV-1 macrophage reservoir by selective inhibition of STAT1 expression

Mauro Magnani, Emanuela Balestra, Alessandra Fraternale, Stefano Aquaro, Mirko Paiardini, Barbara Cervasi, Anna Casabianca, Enrico Garaci, Carlo Federico Perno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) cannot eliminate HIV-1 from infected persons, mainly because of the existence of refractory viral reservoir(s). Beyond latently-infected CD4+-T lymphocytes, macrophages (M/M) are important persistent reservoirs for HIV in vivo, that represent a major obstacle to HIV-1 eradication. Therefore, a rational therapeutic approach directed to the selective elimination of long-living HIV-infected M/M may be relevant in the therapy of HIV infection. Here we report that HIV-1 chronic infection of human macrophages results in the marked increase of expression and phosphorylation of STAT1, a protein involved in the regulation of many functions such as cell growth, differentiation, and maintenance of cellular homeostasis, thereby providing a new molecular target for drug development. A single and brief exposure to 9-(β-D-arabinofuranosyl)-2-fluoroadenine 5′-monophosphate (FaraAMP, Fludarabine), a potent antileukemic nucleoside analog active against STAT1 expressing cells, selectively kills macrophage cultures infected by HIV-1 without affecting uninfected macrophages. Furthermore, encapsulation of Fludarabine into autologous erythrocytes (RBC) and targeting to macrophages through a single-18 h treatment with drug-loaded RBC, not only abolishes the Fludarabine-mediated toxic effect on non-phagocytic cells, but also enhances the selective killing of HIV-infected macrophages. As a final result, a potent (>98%) and long-lasting (at least 4 weeks without rebound) inhibition of virus release from drug-loaded RBC-treated chronically-infected macrophages was achieved. Taken together, the evidence of HIV-1-induced increase of STAT1, and the availability of a selective drug targeting system, may prove useful in the design of new pharmacological treatments to clear the HIV-1 macrophage reservoir.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)764-771
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003


  • Erythrocytes (RBC)
  • Fludarabine
  • Macrophages (M/M)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Drug-loaded red blood cell-mediated clearance of HIV-1 macrophage reservoir by selective inhibition of STAT1 expression'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this