Productive replication of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) in brain macrophages and microglia is a critical component of viral neuropathogenesis. However, how virus-macrophage interactions lead to neurological disease remains incompletely understood. Possibly, a differential ability of virus to replicate in brain tissue macrophages versus macrophages in other tissues underlies HIV-1 neurovirulence. To these ends, we established systems for the isolation and propagation of pure populations of human microglia and then analyzed the vital life cycles of divergent HIV- 1 strains in these cells and in cultured monocytes by using identical viral inocula and indicator systems. The HIV-1 isolates included those isolated from blood, lung tissue, cerebrospinal fluids (CSF), and brain tissues of infected subjects: HIV-1(ADA) and HIV-189.6 (from peripheral blood mononuclear cells), HIV-1(DJV) and HIV-1(JR-FL) (from brain tissue), HIV- 1(SF162) (from CSF), and HIV-1(BAL) (from lung tissue). The synthesis of viral nucleic acids and viral mRNA, cytopathicity, and release of progeny virions were assessed. A significant heterogeneity among macrophage-tropic isolates for infection of monocytes and microgila was demonstrated. Importantly, a complete analysis of the viral life cycle revealed no preferential differences in the abilities of the HIV-1 strains tested to replicate in microglia and/or monocytes. Macrophage tropism likely dictates the abilities of HIV-I to invade, replicate, and incite disease within its microglial target cells.