We sought to determine whether the neurotoxin quinolinic acid (QUIN) was produced by macrophages or lymphocytes infected with isolates of HIV-1 with varying degrees of macrophage tropism derived from patients with varying stages of AIDS dementia complex (ADC). Highly macrophage tropic isolates and minimally macrophage tropic isolates were used to inoculate macrophages and QUIN production was measured. Similarly, QUIN production from macrophages was monitored using a purified cell free highly macrophage tropic isolate and laboratory isolates SF33 and SF2. Each of these experiments was also performed with lymphocytes. We found that macrophages infected with macrophage tropic isolates of HIV-1 led to QUIN production while lymphocytes did not produce QUIN. The ability of the HIV-1 infected macrophages to produce QUIN was related to the viral inoculum and the degree of macrophage tropism of the isolate. The severity of ADC in the patient from whom a particular isolate was derived was not per se a determining factor for QUIN production. Purified cell free ADC isolates also led to QUIN production by macrophages thereby suggesting that HIV-1 infection alone is capable of inducing QUIN production.