Insights into the gene expression profiles of active and restricted red/green-HIV+ human astrocytes: Implications for shock or lock therapies in the brain

Venkata Viswanadh Edara, Anuja Ghorpade, Kathleen Borgmann

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11 Scopus citations


A significant number of people living with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) suffer from HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). Many previous studies investigating HIV in astrocytes as a heterogenous population have established the relevance of astrocytes to HIV-associated neuropathogenesis. However, these studies were unable to differentiate the state of infection, i.e., active or latent, or to evaluate how this affects astrocyte biology. In this study, the pseudotyped doubly labeled fluorescent reporter red/green (R/G)-HIV-1 was used to identify and enrich restricted and active populations of HIV+ astrocytes based on the viral promoter activity. Here, we report that the majority of human astrocytes restricted R/G-HIV-1 gene expression early during infection and were resistant to reactivation by vorinostat and interleukin 1β. However, actively infected astrocytes were inducible, leading to increased expression of viral proteins upon reactivation. R/GHIV- 1 infection also significantly decreased the cell proliferation and glutamate clearance ability of astrocytes, which may contribute to excitotoxicity. Moreover, transcriptome analyses to compare gene expression patterns of astrocyte harboring active versus restricted long terminal repeats (LTRs) revealed that the gene expression patterns were similar and that the active population demonstrated more widespread and robust changes. Our data suggest that harboring the HIV genome profoundly alters astrocyte biology and that strategies that keep the virus latent (e.g., block and lock) or those that reactivate the latent virus (e.g., shock and kill) would be detrimental to astrocyte function and possibly augment their contributions to HAND. IMPORTANCE More than 36 million people are living with HIV-1 worldwide, and despite antiretroviral therapy, 30 to 50% of the people living with HIV-1 suffer from mild to moderate neurocognitive disorders. HIV-1 reservoirs in the central nervous system (CNS) are challenging to address due to low penetration of antiretroviral drugs, lack of resident T cells, and permanent integration of provirus into neural cells such as microglia and astrocytes. Several studies have shown astrocyte dysfunction during HIV-1 infection. However, little is known about how HIV-1 latency affects their function. The significance of our research is in identifying that the majority of HIV+ astrocytes restrict HIV expression and were resistant to reactivation. Further, simply harboring the HIV genome profoundly altered astrocyte biology, resulting in a proinflammatory phenotype and functional changes. In this context, therapeutic strategies to reactivate or silence astrocyte HIV reservoirs, without excising proviral DNA, will likely lead to detrimental neuropathological outcomes during HIV CNS infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01563-19
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Astroglia
  • HIV-1 latency
  • HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND)
  • Neuroinflammation
  • RNA sequencing
  • Transcriptomics
  • Viral reservoirs


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