CC chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2) is constitutively expressed at high levels in human peripheral blood monocytes, and its expression is further up-modulated during their differentiation into macrophages as well as in the course of HIV infection. To investigate the role of endogenous CCL2 on HIV replication and macrophage function, CCL2's activity was neutralized by specific antibodies. Infection of monocyte-derived macrophages with laboratory-adapted HIV-1 or primary viral isolates in the continuous presence of anti-CCL2 antibody resulted in significantly lower p24 Gag antigen release with respect to control cultures. Interestingly, CCL2 neutralization did not affect the early steps of the HIV life cycle but resulted in the intracellular accumulation of p24 Gag antigen. Simultaneously, remarkable changes in cell morphology and size occurred in cell cultures maintained in the presence of anti-CCL2 antibody. These results suggest that CCL2 may represent an autocrine factor important for enhancing virion production likely by affecting the macrophage cytoskeleton.
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