Patients with HIV infection have decreased numbers of osteoblasts, decreased bone mineral density and increased risk of fracture compared to uninfected patients; however, the molecular mechanisms behind these associations remain unclear. We questioned whether Gp120, a component of the envelope protein of HIV capable of inducing apoptosis in many cell types, is able to induce cell death in bone-forming osteoblasts. We show that treatment of immortalized osteoblast-like cells and primary human osteoblasts with exogenous Gp120 in vitro at physiologic concentrations does not result in apoptosis. Instead, in the osteoblast-like U2OS cell line, cells expressing CXCR4, a receptor for Gp120, had increased proliferation when treated with Gp120 compared to control (P<0.05), which was inhibited by pretreatment with a CXCR4 inhibitor and a G-protein inhibitor. This suggests that Gp120 is not an inducer of apoptosis in human osteoblasts and likely does not directly contribute to osteoporosis in infected patients by this mechanism.
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