Defective immunological function of cells of the macrophage lineage contributes considerably to the pathogenesis of HIV-1 infection. Impairment of phagocytosis of opportunistic pathogens such as Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC), Pneumocystis carinii, Toxoplasma gondii or Candida albicans by peripheral blood monocytes, tissue macrophages and monocyte-derived macrophages following in vivo and in vitro HIV-1 infection is well documented.
The development of opportunistic infections due to these pathogens in HIV-infected individuals at late stages of disease is attributed to defective monocyte/macrophage function. The mechanisms whereby HIV-1 impairs phagocytosis are not well known. A number of phagocytic receptors normally mediate engulfment of specific opportunistic pathogens by cells of macrophage lineage; distinct mechanisms are triggered by pathogen-receptor binding to promote cytoskeletal rearrangements and engulfment.
This review focuses on the signalling events occurring during Fcgamma receptor- and complement receptor-mediated phagocytosis, and considers the mechanisms by which HIV-1 inhibits those signalling events. Since macrophage function is enhanced by cytokines such as granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), the use of these immunomodulators is of potential interest as adjunctive immunotherapy in immunosuppressed individuals. In this review we present examples of clinical applications of GM-CSF and IFN-gamma therapy for the treatment of opportunistic infections in HIV-infected individuals receiving antiretroviral drugs.