Disseminated Mycobacterium avium infection in AIDS is associated with high tissue burdens (10(9)-10(10) mycobacteria/g tissue) of organism. The basis for the extraordinary susceptibility of AIDS to M. avium infection is unclear. HIV or its constituents may alter mononuclear phagocyte functions resulting in enhanced intracellular M. avium growth. The effects of an envelope glycoprotein (gp120), a transmembrane protein (p121), and core proteins of HIV-1 on M. avium infection of human monocytes were examined. Preculturing monocytes with gp120 inhibited M. avium phagocytosis and consistently enhanced intracellular growth of six M. avium strains. Pretreatment with p121, gag5, or p24 did not inhibit phagocytosis nor enhance intracellular growth of M. avium. Incubation of gp120 with soluble CD4 before addition to monocyte cultures or pretreatment of monocytes with OKT4A abrogated gp120 effects on M. avium phagocytosis and intracellular growth. gp120 also augmented cytokine production by infected monocytes. These results suggest that gp120, but not p121 or core proteins, modulate monocyte phagocytosis and enhance intracellular growth of M. avium at least in part through monocyte CD4 receptors. Direct effects of HIV-1 products may, therefore, contribute to the diathesis of AIDS to develop disseminated M. avium infection and to the extensive replication of the organisms within tissue macrophages.
H Shiratsuchi, J L Johnson, Z Toossi, J J Ellner