Cells. 2022 Feb 18;11(4):723. doi: 10.3390/cells11040723.
Of the 37.9 million individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), approximately 50% exhibit HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). We and others previously showed that HIV-1 viral RNAs, such as trans-activating response (TAR) RNA, are incorporated into extracellular vesicles (EVs) and elicit an inflammatory response in recipient naïve cells. Cannabidiol (CBD) and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary cannabinoids present in cannabis, are effective in reducing inflammation. Studies show that cannabis use in people living with HIV-1 is associated with lower viral load, lower circulating CD16+ monocytes and high CD4+ T-cell counts, suggesting a potentially therapeutic application. Here, HIV-1 infected U1 monocytes and primary macrophages were used to assess the effects of CBD. Post-CBD treatment, EV concentrations were analyzed using nanoparticle tracking analysis. Changes in intracellular and EV-associated viral RNA were quantified using RT-qPCR, and changes in viral proteins, EV markers, and autophagy proteins were assessed by Western blot. Our data suggest that CBD significantly reduces the number of EVs released from infected cells and that this may be mediated by reducing viral transcription and autophagy activation. Therefore, CBD may exert a protective effect by alleviating the pathogenic effects of EVs in HIV-1 and CNS-related infections.