TNF-α Opens a Paracellular Route for HIV-1 Invasion across the Blood-Brain Barrier

Milan Fiala, David J. Looney, Monique Stins, Dennis D. Way, Ling Zhang, Xiaohu Gan, Francesco Chiappelli, Erik S. Schweitzer, Paul Shapshak, Martin Weinand, Michael C. Graves, Marlys Witte, Kwang Sik Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


Background: HTV-1 invades the central nervous system early after infection when macrophage infiltration of the brain is low but myelin pallor is suggestive of blood-brain-barrier damage. High-level plasma viremia is a likely source of brain infection. To understand the invasion route, we investigated virus penetration across in vitro models with contrasting paracellular permeability subjected to TNF-α. Materials and Methods: Blood-brain-barrier models constructed with human brain microvascular endothelial cells, fetal astrocytes, and collagen I or fibronectin matrix responded in a dose-related fashion to cytokines and ligands modulating paracellular permeability and cell migration. Virus penetration was measured by infectious and quantitative HIV-1 RNA assays. Barrier permeability was determined using inulin or dextran. Results: Cell-free HIV-1 was retained by the blood-brain barrier with close to 100% efficiency. TNF-α increased virus penetration by a paracellular route in a dose-dependent manner proportionately to basal permeability. Brain endothelial cells were the main barrier to HIV-1. HIV-1 with monocytes attracted monocyte migration into the brain chamber. Conclusions: Early after the infection, the blood-brain barrier protects the brain from HIV-1. Immune mediators, such as TNF-α, open a paracellular route for the virus into the brain. The virus and viral proteins stimulate brain microglia and macrophages to attract monocytes into the brain. Infiltrating macrophages cause progression of HIV-1 encephalitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)553-564
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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