Macrophages are versatile cells present in most tissues and endowed with a variety of different functions, including in innate and adaptive immunity against pathogens. Macrophages are targets of HIV and implicated in HIV-1 pathogenesis. They are also long-lived reservoir of virus that appear resistant to drug treatments and to attacks from the immune system.
Infected macrophages accumulate large internal vacuoles containing virus, the Virus-Containing Compartments or VCCs that are not found in infected T cells. Newly formed viral particles bud and pinch off at the limiting membrane of the VCC, thus accumulating virions in the lumen of the compartment. The exact nature of this compartment remains obscure and very little is known about the late stages of the viral cycle in macrophages.
We will discuss our recent results on the biogenesis, the maturation, the transport and the probable function of the VCC in infected primary human macrophages. We will focus on our identification and study of a molecular motor that is critical in macrophages, but not in T lymphocytes, for HIV-1 to complete its life cycle.