Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious diseases

Human immuno-virology


Group leader

Guido Poli


This Research Group represents the evolution of the former “AIDS Immunopathogenesis Unit” (1994-2020). Central focus will be the investigation of the role of human monocytes and macrophages in HIV/AIDS and other viral infections, including Zika virus and SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19.

Research activity

This research group will continue to pursue the investigation on the role of human monocytes and macrophages as potential HIV reservoirs both in the presence and absence of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). The persistence of a relatively small pool of persistently infected cells in spite of cART is indeed considered the main obstacle to viral eradication thereby rendering the infection a chronic disease with increased comorbidities with a heavy burden both for the individual and the public health systems. While the key phenotypic and molecular features of the proviral reservoir in CD4+ T cells have been well defined, much less is known on the contribution of myeloid cells to the overall viral load. In this regard, we have optimized an in vitro model based on pro-inflammatory (M1) functional polarization of primary human monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) to study the specific features of the HIV reservoir in these cells, including their peculiarity of storing infectious virions in subcellular compartments named “Virus Containing Compartments (VCC). We will also exploit this model for searching candidate pharmacological agents capable of perturbing the macrophage-associated HIV reservoirs either in terms of “shock and kill” or “block and lock” strategies.

A second goal will be the investigation of the role of role of human monocytes and macrophages in other viral infections, currently focusing on Zika virus (ZIKV) and human pathogenic coronaviruses, i.e. SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, in close collaboration with the Viral Pathogenesis and Biosafety Research Group headed by Elisa Vicenzi. As for HIV-1, we have already substantial evidence that human MDM sustain productive ZIKV infection whereas M1-polarized MDM restrict its replication. Concerning human pathogenic coronaviruses, as human MDM express their entry receptor ACE-2, we are investigating their susceptibility as targets of either productive or restricted infection in comparison to epithelial cells of the respiratory tract.