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1.  Roles and functions of HIV-1 Tat protein in the CNS: an overview 
Virology Journal  2013;10:358.
Nearly 50% of HIV-infected individuals suffer from some form of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). HIV-1 Tat (a key HIV transactivator of transcription) protein is one of the first HIV proteins to be expressed after infection occurs and is absolutely required for the initiation of the HIV genome transcription. In addition to its canonical functions, various studies have shown the deleterious role of HIV-1 Tat in the development and progression of HAND. Within the CNS, only specific cell types can support productive viral replication (astrocytes and microglia), however Tat protein can be released form infected cells to affects HIV non-permissive cells such as neurons. Therefore, in this review, we will summarize the functions of HIV-1 Tat proteins in neural cells and its ability to promote HAND.
PMCID: PMC3879180  PMID: 24359561
2.  Ketone bodies protection against HIV-1 Tat-induced neurotoxicity 
Journal of neurochemistry  2012;122(2):382-391.
HIV-1 associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND) is a syndrome that ranges clinically from subtle neuropsychological impairments to profoundly disabling HIV-associated dementia. Not only is the pathogenesis of HAND unclear, but also effective treatments are unavailable. The HIV-1 transactivator of transcription protein (HIV-1 Tat) is strongly implicated in the pathogenesis of HAND, in part, because of its well-characterized ability to directly excite neurons and cause neurotoxicity. Consistent with previous findings from others, we demonstrate here that HIV-1 Tat induced neurotoxicity, increased intracellular calcium, and disrupted a variety of mitochondria functions, such as reducing mitochondrial membrane potential, increasing levels of reactive oxygen species, and decreasing bioenergetic efficiency. Of therapeutic importance, we show that treatment of cultured neurons with ketone bodies normalized HIV-1 Tat induced changes in levels of intracellular calcium, mitochondrial function, and neuronal cell death. Ketone bodies are normally produced in the body and serve as alternative energy substrates in tissues including brain and can cross the blood-brain barrier. Ketogenic strategies have been used clinically for treatment of neurological disorders and our current results suggest that similar strategies may also provide clinical benefits in the treatment of HAND.
PMCID: PMC3419790  PMID: 22524563
HIV-1 Tat; neurotoxicity; ketone bodies; mitochondrial membrane potential; oxidative stress; calcium homeostasis; ATP
3.  HIV Immune Complexes Prevent Excitotoxicity by Interaction with NMDA Receptors 
Neurobiology of disease  2012;0:10.1016/j.nbd.2012.08.013.
Human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV)-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND) is a neurodegenerative disease for which there is no available neuroprotective therapy. Viral proteins, such as Tat, have been implicated as agents of neurotoxicity via multiple mechanisms, including effects by directly binding to the NMDA receptor. We evaluated ability of the immune response against Tat to modulate neurotoxicity at glutamate receptors.
Neurotoxicity was measured in primary neuronal-glial cultures and in hippocampal slice cultures. We used immunoprecipitation experiments to demonstrate interaction between Tat, NMDA receptor, and anti-Tat antibody. Using known structures of Tat and NMDA receptors, we developed a model of their interactions.
Antibodies to Tat attenuated Tat-mediated neurotoxicity. Interestingly, Tat immune complexes also blocked neurotoxicity caused by NMDA receptor agonists but not kainate/AMPA receptor agonists. Neither Tat nor antibody alone blocked the excitotoxic effect, nor did an unrelated antigen-antibody complex. The protective effect of the Tat immune complexes was also lost when Tat was modified by nitrosylation or by using a deletion mutant of Tat.
The ability of viral immune complexes to interact with NMDA receptors and prevent excitotoxicity represents a novel host defense mechanism. Host immune responses may influence host susceptibility to various effects of viral proteins, modulating HIV complications, such as onset of HAND. These observations provide rationale for development of vaccine therapies targeting Tat for prevention of HAND.
PMCID: PMC3556339  PMID: 22940423
neurotoxicity; neurovirology; dementia; neuroprotection; glutamate; neutralizing antibodies
4.  Synaptic dysfunction in the hippocampus accompanies learning and memory deficits in HIV-1 Tat transgenic mice 
Biological psychiatry  2012;73(5):443-453.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND), including memory dysfunction, continue to be a major clinical manifestation of HIV type-1 (HIV-1) infection. Viral proteins released by infected glia are thought to be the principal triggers of inflammation and bystander neuronal injury and death, thereby driving key symptomatology of HAND.
We used a GFAP-driven, doxycycline (DOX)-inducible HIV-1 Tat (transactivator of transcription) transgenic mouse model and examined structure-function relationships in hippocampal pyramidal CA1 neurons using morphologic (Golgi-silver impregnations, immunohistochemistry, TUNEL detection, synaptic protein markers, electron microscopy), electrophysiological (long-term potentiation (LTP)), and behavioral (Morris water maze, fear-conditioning) approaches.
Tat induction caused a variety of different inclusions in astrocytes characteristic of lysosomes, autophagic vacuoles, and lamellar bodies, which were typically present within distal cytoplasmic processes. In pyramidal CA1 neurons, Tat induction reduced the number of apical dendritic spines, while disrupting the distribution of synaptic proteins (synaptotagmin 2 and gephyrin) associated with inhibitory transmission, but with minimal dendritic pathology and no evidence of pyramidal neuron death. Electrophysiological assessment of excitatory postsynaptic field potential (fEPSP) at Schaffer collateral/commissural fiber-CA1 synapses showed near total suppression of LTP in mice expressing Tat. The loss in LTP coincided with disruptions in learning and memory.
Tat expression in the brain results in profound functional changes in synaptic physiology and in behavior that are accompanied by only modest structural changes and minimal pathology. Tat likely contributes to HAND by causing molecular changes that disrupt synaptic organization, with inhibitory presynaptic terminals containing synaptotagmin 2 appearing especially vulnerable.
PMCID: PMC3570635  PMID: 23218253
NeuroAIDS; hippocampal area CA1; electron microscopy; synaptotagmin; gephyrin; neuroplasticity; long-term potentiation; Morris water maze; spatial learning; fear conditioning
5.  Targeting the Glutamatergic System for the Treatment of HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders 
The accumulation of excess glutamate in the extracellular space as a consequence of CNS trauma, neurodegenerative diseases, infection, or deregulation of glutamate clearance results in neuronal damage by excessive excitatory neurotransmission. Glutamate excitotoxicity is thought to be one of several mechanisms by which HIV exerts neurotoxicity that culminates in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). Excess glutamate is released upon HIV infection of macrophage/microglial cells and has been associated with neurotoxicity mediated by gp120, transactivator of transcription (Tat) and other HIV proteins. Several strategies have been used over the years to try to prevent glutamate excitotoxicity. Since the main toxic effects of excess glutamate are thought to be due to excitotoxicity from over activation of glutamate receptors, antagonists of these receptors have been popular therapeutic targets. Early work to ameliorate the effects of excess extracellular glutamate focused on NMDA receptor antagonism, but unfortunately, potent blockade of this receptor has been fraught with side effects. One alternative to direct receptor blockade has been the inhibition of enzymes responsible for the production of glutamate such as glutaminase and glutamate carboxypeptidase II. Another approach has been to regulate the transporters responsible for modulation of extracellular glutamate such as excitatory amino acid transporters and the glutamate-cystine antiporter. There is preliminary experimental evidence that these approaches have potential therapeutic utility for the treatment of HAND. These efforts however, are at an early stage where the next steps are dependent on the identification of drug-like inhibitors as well as the development of predictive neuroAIDS animal models.
PMCID: PMC3661915  PMID: 23553365
Glutamate; HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder; Excitotoxicity; Glutaminase; Glutamate carboxypeptidase II
6.  Co-operative induction of CXCL10 involves NADPH Oxidase: Implications for HIV Dementia 
Glia  2010;58(5):611-621.
With the increasing prevalence of HIV-associated neurocognititve disorders (HAND), understanding the mechanisms by which HIV-1 induces neuro-inflammation and subsequent neuronal damage is important. The hallmark features of HIV-encephalitis, the pathological correlate of HIV-associated Dementia (HAD), are gliosis, oxidative stress, chemokine dysregulation, and neuronal damage/death. Since neurons are not infected by HIV-1, the current thinking is that these cells are damaged indirectly by pro-inflammatory chemokines released by activated glial cells. CXCL10 is a neurotoxic chemokine that is up-regulated in astroglia activated by HIV-1 Tat, IFN-γ, and TNF-α. In this study we have demonstrated that HIV-1 Tat increases CXCL10 expression in IFN-γ and TNF-α stimulated human astrocytes via NADPH oxidase. We have shown that the treatment of astrocytes with a mixture of Tat and cytokines leads to a respiratory burst that is abrogated by apocynin, an NADPH oxidase inhibitor. Pre-treatment of Tat, IFN-γ, and TNF-α stimulated astrocytes with apocynin also resulted in concomitant inhibition of CXCL10 expression. Additionally, apocynin was also able to reduce Tat and cytokine-mediated activation of the corresponding signaling molecules Erk1/2, Jnk, and Akt with a decrease in activation and nuclear translocation of NF-κB, important regulators of CXCL10 induction. Understanding the mechanisms involved in reducing both oxidative stress and the release of pro-inflammatory agents could lead to the development of therapeutics aimed at decreasing neuro-inflammation in patients suffering from HAD.
PMCID: PMC2820595  PMID: 19941336
NADPH Oxidase; Astrocytes; HIV-associated Dementia; CXCL10
7.  Human immunodeficiency virus-1 protein Tat induces excitotoxic loss of presynaptic terminals in hippocampal cultures 
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection of the CNS produces dendritic damage that correlates with cognitive decline in patients with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). HIV-induced neurotoxicity results in part from viral proteins shed from infected cells, including the HIV transactivator of transcription (Tat). We previously showed that Tat binds to the low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein (LRP), resulting in overactivation of NMDA receptors, activation of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway, and subsequent loss of postsynaptic densities. Here, we show that Tat also induces a loss of presynaptic terminals. The number of presynaptic terminals was quantified using confocal imaging of synaptophysin fused to green fluorescent protein (Syn-GFP). Tat-induced loss of presynaptic terminals was secondary to excitatory postsynaptic mechanisms because treatment with an LRP antagonist or an NMDA receptor antagonist inhibited this loss. Treatment with nutlin-3, an E3 ligase inhibitor, prevented Tat-induced loss of presynaptic terminals. These data suggest that Tat-induced loss of presynaptic terminals is a consequence of excitotoxic postsynaptic activity. We previously found that ifenprodil, an NR2B subunit-selective NMDA receptor antagonist, induced recovery of postsynaptic densities. Here we show that Tat-induced loss of presynaptic terminals was reversed by ifenprodil treatment. Thus, Tat-induced loss of presynaptic terminals is reversible, and this recovery can be initiated by inhibiting a subset of postsynaptic NMDA receptors. Understanding the dynamics of synaptic changes in response to HIV infection of the CNS may lead to the design of improved pharmacotherapies for HAND patients.
PMCID: PMC3622188  PMID: 23267846
presynaptic terminal; HIV-1 Tat; synapse loss; HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders; excitotoxicity
8.  Dysregulation of Macrophage-Secreted Cathepsin B Contributes to HIV-1-Linked Neuronal Apoptosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36571.
Chronic HIV infection leads to the development of cognitive impairments, designated as HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). The secretion of soluble neurotoxic factors by HIV-infected macrophages plays a central role in the neuronal dysfunction and cell death associated with HAND. One potentially neurotoxic protein secreted by HIV-1 infected macrophages is cathepsin B. To explore the potential role of cathepsin B in neuronal cell death after HIV infection, we cultured HIV-1ADA infected human monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) and assayed them for expression and activity of cathepsin B and its inhibitors, cystatins B and C. The neurotoxic activity of the secreted cathepsin B was determined by incubating cells from the neuronal cell line SK-N-SH with MDM conditioned media (MCM) from HIV-1 infected cultures. We found that HIV-1 infected MDM secreted significantly higher levels of cathepsin B than did uninfected cells. Moreover, the activity of secreted cathepsin B was significantly increased in HIV-infected MDM at the peak of viral production. Incubation of neuronal cells with supernatants from HIV-infected MDM resulted in a significant increase in the numbers of apoptotic neurons, and this increase was reversed by the addition of either the cathepsin B inhibitor CA-074 or a monoclonal antibody to cathepsin B. In situ proximity ligation assays indicated that the increased neurotoxic activity of the cathepsin B secreted by HIV-infected MDM resulted from decreased interactions between the enzyme and its inhibitors, cystatins B and C. Furthermore, preliminary in vivo studies of human post-mortem brain tissue suggested an upregulation of cathepsin B immunoreactivity in the hippocampus and basal ganglia in individuals with HAND. Our results demonstrate that HIV-1 infection upregulates cathepsin B in macrophages, increases cathepsin B activity, and reduces cystatin-cathepsin interactions, contributing to neuronal apoptosis. These findings provide new evidence for the role of cathepsin B in neuronal cell death induced by HIV-infected macrophages.
PMCID: PMC3365072  PMID: 22693552
9.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 Tat Protein Increases the Number of Inhibitory Synapses between Hippocampal Neurons in Culture 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(45):17908-17920.
Synaptodendritic damage correlates with cognitive decline in many neurodegenerative diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1)-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). Because HIV-1 does not infect neurons, viral-mediated toxicity is indirect, resulting from released neurotoxins such as the HIV-1 protein transactivator of transcription (Tat). We compared the effects of Tat on inhibitory and excitatory synaptic connections between rat hippocampal neurons using an imaging-based assay that quantified clusters of the scaffolding proteins gephyrin or PSD95 fused to GFP. Tat (24 h) increased the number of GFP–gephyrin puncta and decreased the number of PSD95–GFP puncta. The effects of Tat on inhibitory and excitatory synapse number were mediated via the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein and subsequent Ca2+ influx through GluN2A-containing NMDA receptors (NMDARs). The effects of Tat on synapse number required cell-autonomous activation of Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII). Ca2+ buffering experiments suggested that loss of excitatory synapses required activation of CaMKII in close apposition to the NMDAR, whereas the increase in inhibitory synapses required Ca2+ diffusion to a more distal site. The increase in inhibitory synapses was prevented by inhibiting the insertion of GABAA receptors into the membrane. Synaptic changes induced by Tat (16 h) were reversed by blocking either GluN2B-containing NMDARs or neuronal nitric oxide synthase, indicating changing roles for pathways activated by NMDAR subtypes during the neurotoxic process. Compensatory changes in the number of inhibitory and excitatory synapses may serve as a novel mechanism to reduce network excitability in the presence of HIV-1 neurotoxins; these changes may inform the development of treatments for HAND.
PMCID: PMC3818559  PMID: 24198379
10.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type-1 Protein Tat Induces Tumor Necrosis Factor-α-Mediated Neurotoxicity 
Neurobiology of disease  2007;26(3):661-670.
HIV-1 infection causes, with increasing prevalence, neurological disorders characterized in part by neuronal cell death. The HIV-1 protein Tat has been shown to be directly and indirectly neurotoxic. Here, we tested the hypothesis that a non-neurotoxic epitope of Tat can, through actions on immune cells, increase neuronal cell death. Tat1-72 and a mutant Tat1-72 lacking the neurotoxic epitope (TatΔ31-61) concentration-dependently and markedly increased TNF-α production in macrophage-like differentiated human U937 and THP-1 cells, in mouse peritoneal macrophages and in mouse brain microglia. Tat1-72 was but TatΔ31-61 was not neurotoxic when applied directly to neurons. Supernatants from U937 cells treated with either Tat1-72 or TatΔ31-61 were neurotoxic and their immunoneutralization with an anti-TNF-α antibody decreased Tat1-72- and TatΔ31-61-induced neurotoxicity. Together, these results demonstrate that the neurotoxic epitope of Tat1-72 is different from the epitope that is indirectly neurotoxic following production of TNF-α from immune cells, and suggest that therapeutic interventions against TNF-α might be beneficial against HIV-1 associated neurological disorders.
PMCID: PMC2080622  PMID: 17451964
TNF-α; HIV-1; Tat; neurotoxicity; macrophages; microglia; U937 cells; THP-1 cells; inflammation
11.  Direct Effects of HIV-1 Tat on Excitability and Survival of Primary Dorsal Root Ganglion Neurons: Possible Contribution to HIV-1-Associated Pain 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24412.
The vast majority of people living with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) have pain syndrome, which has a significant impact on their quality of life. The underlying causes of HIV-1-associated pain are not likely attributable to direct viral infection of the nervous system due to the lack of evidence of neuronal infection by HIV-1. However, HIV-1 proteins are possibly involved as they have been implicated in neuronal damage and death. The current study assesses the direct effects of HIV-1 Tat, one of potent neurotoxic viral proteins released from HIV-1-infected cells, on the excitability and survival of rat primary dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. We demonstrated that HIV-1 Tat triggered rapid and sustained enhancement of the excitability of small-diameter rat primary DRG neurons, which was accompanied by marked reductions in the rheobase and resting membrane potential (RMP), and an increase in the resistance at threshold (RTh). Such Tat-induced DRG hyperexcitability may be a consequence of the inhibition of cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) activity. Tat rapidly inhibited Cdk5 kinase activity and mRNA production, and roscovitine, a well-known Cdk5 inhibitor, induced a very similar pattern of DRG hyperexcitability. Indeed, pre-application of Tat prevented roscovitine from having additional effects on the RMP and action potentials (APs) of DRGs. However, Tat-mediated actions on the rheobase and RTh were accelerated by roscovitine. These results suggest that Tat-mediated changes in DRG excitability are partly facilitated by Cdk5 inhibition. In addition, Cdk5 is most abundant in DRG neurons and participates in the regulation of pain signaling. We also demonstrated that HIV-1 Tat markedly induced apoptosis of primary DRG neurons after exposure for longer than 48 h. Together, this work indicates that HIV-1 proteins are capable of producing pain signaling through direct actions on excitability and survival of sensory neurons.
PMCID: PMC3166319  PMID: 21912693
12.  Neurotoxicity of HIV-1 Tat protein: Involvement of D1 dopamine receptor 
Neurotoxicology  2007;28(6):1184-1190.
Neurotoxic viral proteins released from HIV-infected cells are believed to play a major role in the pathogenesis of the dementia displayed in a significant number of AIDS patients. HIV-1 associated neuropathology severely affects dopaminergic regions of the brain. Growing evidence indicates that HIV-1 neurotoxic proteins, such as Tat may affect the function of the dopamine transmission system. In turn, molecular components of dopamine neurotransmission may participate in a complex network of Tat-induced cell responses which result in neurodegeneration. In this study we investigated whether D1 dopamine receptors are involved in the mechanism of Tat neurotoxicity in primary rat neuronal cell cultures. We found that in rat midbrain cell cultures, which express significant levels of D1 dopamine receptors, the specific D1 antagonist SCH 23390 attenuates the cell death caused by HIV-1 Tat. In rat hippocampal cell cultures, where the expression of D1 receptors is low, SCH 23390 did not change the toxicity of Tat. Thus, the protective effect of SCH 23390 in rat primary neuronal cell cultures correlates with the level of D1 receptor protein expression. Our results provide further evidence for the involvement of the dopaminergic transmission system in the mechanism of HIV-1 Tat neurotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC2957183  PMID: 17764744
viral proteins; dopamine receptors; cell culture
13.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus Protein Tat Induces Synapse Loss via a Reversible Process that is Distinct from Cell Death 
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 infection of the CNS produces changes in dendritic morphology that correlate with cognitive decline in patients with HIV-1 associated dementia (HAD). Here we investigated the effects of HIV-1 transactivator of transcription (Tat), a protein released by virus-infected cells, on synapses between hippocampal neurons using an imaging-based assay that quantified clusters of the scaffolding protein postsynaptic density 95 fused to green fluorescent protein (PSD95-GFP). Tat (24 h) decreased the number of PSD95-GFP puncta by 50±7 %. The decrease was concentration-dependent (EC50=6±2 ng/ml) and preceded cell death. Tat acted via the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein (LRP) because the specific LRP blocker, receptor associated protein (RAP), prevented the Tat-induced decrease in the number of PSD95-GFP puncta. Ca2+ influx through the NMDA receptor was necessary for Tat-induced synapse loss. Expression of an ubiquitin ligase inhibitor protected synapses, implicating the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. In contrast to synapse loss, Tat induced cell death (48 h) required activation of nitric oxide synthase. The ubiquitin ligase-inhibitor nutlin-3 prevented synapse loss, but not cell death induced by Tat. Thus, the pathways diverged, consistent with the hypothesis that synapse loss is a mechanism to reduce excess excitatory input rather than a symptom of the neuron’s demise. Furthermore, application of RAP to cultures treated with Tat for 16 hrs reversed synapse loss. These results suggest that the impaired network function and decreased neuronal survival produced by Tat involve distinct mechanisms and that pharmacologic targets, such as LRP, might prove useful in restoring function in HAD patients.
PMCID: PMC2678679  PMID: 19036954
Tat; LRP; PSD95; proteasome; NeuroAIDS; neurotoxicity
14.  Differences in NMDA Receptor Expression During Human Development Determine the Response of Neurons to HIV-Tat-mediated Neurotoxicity 
Neurotoxicity research  2010;19(1):138-148.
HIV infection of the CNS can result in neurologic dysfunction in a significant number of infected individuals. NeuroAIDS is characterized by neuronal injury and loss, yet there is no evidence of HIV infection in neurons. Thus, neuronal damage and dropout are likely due to indirect effects of HIV infection of other CNS cells, through elaboration of inflammatory factors and neurotoxic viral proteins, including the viral transactivating protein tat. We and others demonstrated that tat induces apoptosis in differentiated mature human neurons. We now demonstrate that the high level of tat toxicity observed in human neurons involves specific developmental stages that correlate with N-Methyl-D-Aspartate receptor (NMDAR) expression, and that tat toxicity is also dependent upon the species being analyzed. Our results indicate that tat treatment of primary cultures of differentiated human neurons with significant amounts of NMDAR expression induces extensive apoptosis. In contrast, tat treatment induces only low levels of apoptosis in primary cultures of immature human neurons with low or minimal expression of NMDAR. In addition, tat treatment has minimal effect on rat hippocampal neurons in culture, despite their high expression of NMDAR. We propose that this difference may be due to low expression of the NR2A subunit. These findings are important for an understanding of the many differences among tissue culture systems and species used to study HIV-tat-mediated toxicity.
PMCID: PMC3464008  PMID: 20094923
HIV-1; NeuroAIDS; Glutamate; NMDA; Dementia; HAND
15.  HIV-1 Tat-induced microglial activation and neuronal damage is inhibited via CD45 modulation: A potential new treatment target for HAND 
Microglia become activated in humans subsequent to infection with HIV, and uncontrolled brain inflammation plays a key role in neuronal injury and and cognitive dysfunction during HIV infection. Various studies have shown a deleterious role for the HIV regulatory protein Tat in the development and maintenance of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). One cell surface receptor implicated in inhibiting microglial activation is the protein-tyrosine phosphatase (PTP), CD45. It is especially effective at inhibiting microglial activation because its action takes place far upstream from proinflammatory intracellular signaling mediators. To investigate the possible role of CD45 in microglial responsiveness to HIV-1 Tat protein, we treated BV-2 microglia with a tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor [potassium bisperoxo (1, 10-phenanthroline) oxovanadate (phen), 5 μM] and HIV-1 Tat protein (700ng/ml). We found a synergistic pro-inflammatory microglial activation as supported by tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin 1-beta (IL-1β) release, both of which were dependent on p44/42 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation. Stimulation of microglial CD45 by anti-CD45 antibody markedly inhibited these Tat or Tat/Phen effects via attenuation of p44/42 MAPK, suggesting CD45 negatively regulates microglial activation. As a validation of these findings in vivo, brains from transgenic mice deficient for CD45 through complete genetic ablation, or by CNS delivery of CD45shRNA, demonstrate markedly increased production of TNF-α 24 hours after intracerebroventricular injection of HIV-Tat protein (5μg/mouse) compared to control mice. This increased microglial activation was accompanied by astrogliosis and a significant loss of cortical neurons due to apoptosis in CD45 deficient animals. These results suggest therapeutic agents that activate CD45 PTP signaling may be effective in suppressing microglial activation associated with HAND.
PMCID: PMC3426392  PMID: 22937208
HIV; dementia; CD45; microglia; HIV associated neurocognitive disorders
16.  HIV Tat Elicits Microglial Glutamate Release: Role of NAPDH Oxidase and the Cystine-Glutamate Antiporter 
Neuroscience letters  2010;485(3):233-236.
Excitotoxicity and/or microglial reactivity might underlie neurologic dysfunction in HIV patients. The HIV regulatory protein Tat is both neurotoxic and pro-inflammatory, suggesting that Tat might participate in the pathogenesis of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). The present study was undertaken to evaluate if Tat can increase extracellular glutamate, and was specifically designed to determine the degree to which, and the mechanisms by which Tat could drive microglial glutamate release. Data show that application of Tat to cultured primary microglia caused dose-dependent increases in extracellular glutamate that were exacerbated by morphine, which is known to worsen Tat cytotoxicity. Tat-induced glutamate release was decreased by inhibitors of p38 and p42/44 MAPK, and by inhibitors of NADPH oxidase and the xc− cystine-glutamate antiporter. Furthermore, Tat increased expression of the catalytic subunit of xc− (xCT), but Tat-induced increases in xCT mRNA were not affected by inhibition of NADPH oxidase or xc− activity. Together, these data describe a specific and biologically significant signaling component of the microglial response to Tat, and suggest that excitotoxic neuropathology associated with HIV infection might originate in part with Tat-induced activation of microglial glutamate release.
PMCID: PMC2956797  PMID: 20849923
excitotoxicity; glia; inflammation; morphine; HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders; oxidative stress
17.  Nuclear Factor-Kappa B Family Member RelB Inhibits Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 Tat-Induced Tumor Necrosis Factor-Alpha Production 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(7):e11875.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 (HIV-1)-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND) is likely neuroinflammatory in origin, believed to be triggered by inflammatory and oxidative stress responses to cytokines and HIV protein gene products such as the HIV transactivator of transcription (Tat). Here we demonstrate increased messenger RNA for nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) family member, transcription factor RelB, in the brain of doxycycline-induced Tat transgenic mice, and increased RelB synthesis in Tat-exposed microglial cells. Since genetic ablation of RelB in mice leads to multi-organ inflammation, we hypothesized that Tat-induced, newly synthesized RelB inhibits cytokine production by microglial cells, possibly through the formation of transcriptionally inactive RelB/RelA complexes. Indeed, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFα) production in monocytes isolated from RelB deficient mice was significantly higher than in monocytes isolated from RelB expressing controls. Moreover, RelB overexpression in microglial cells inhibited Tat-induced TNFα synthesis in a manner that involved transcriptional repression of the TNFα promoter, and increased phosphorylation of RelA at serine 276, a prerequisite for increased RelB/RelA protein interactions. The Rel-homology-domain within RelB was necessary for this interaction. Overexpression of RelA itself, in turn, significantly increased TNFα promoter activity, an effect that was completely blocked by RelB overexpression. We conclude that RelB regulates TNFα cytokine synthesis by competitive interference binding with RelA, which leads to downregulation of TNFα production. Moreover, because Tat activates both RelB and TNFα in microglia, and because Tat induces inflammatory TNFα synthesis via NF-κB, we posit that RelB serves as a cryoprotective, anti-inflammatory, counter-regulatory mechanism for pathogenic NF-κB activation. These findings identify a novel regulatory pathway for controlling HIV-induced microglial activation and cytokine production that may have important therapeutic implications for the management of HAND.
PMCID: PMC2912378  PMID: 20686703
18.  HIV-1 Tat Interacts with and Regulates the Localization and Processing of Amyloid Precursor Protein 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e77972.
HIV-1 Tat protein plays various roles in virus proliferation and in the regulation of numerous host cell functions. Accumulating evidence suggests that HIV-1 Tat also plays an important role in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) by disrupting intracellular communication. Amyloid beta (Aβ) is generated from amyloid precursor protein (APP) and accumulates in the senile plaques of Alzheimer's disease patients. This study demonstrates that Tat interacts with APP both in vitro and in vivo, and increases the level of Aβ42 by recruiting APP into lipid rafts. Co-localization of Tat with APP in the cytosol was observed in U-87 MG cells that expressed high levels of Tat, and redistribution of APP into lipid rafts, a site of increased β- and γ-secretase activity, was demonstrated by discontinuous sucrose density gradient ultracentrifugation in the presence of Tat. Furthermore, Tat enhanced the cleavage of APP by β-secretase in vitro, resulting in 5.5-fold higher levels of Aβ42. This was consistent with increased levels of β-C-terminal fragment (β-CTF) and reduced levels of α-CTF. Moreover, stereotaxic injection of a lentiviral Tat expression construct into the hippocampus of APP/presenilin-1 (PS1) transgenic mice resulted in increased Tat-mediated production and processing of Aβ in vivo. Increased levels of Aβ42, as well as an increase in the number and size of Aβ plaques, were observed in the hippocampus following injection of Tat virus compared with mock virus. These results suggest that HIV-1 Tat may contribute to HAND by interacting with and modifying APP processing, thereby increasing Aβ production.
PMCID: PMC3843664  PMID: 24312169
19.  Methamphetamine and HIV-1 Tat Down Regulate β-catenin Signaling: Implications for Methampetamine Abuse and HIV-1 Co-morbidity 
Methamphetamine (Meth) abuse exacerbates HIV-1-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). The underlying mechanism for this effect is not entirely clear but likely involves cooperation between Meth and HIV-1 virotoxins, such as the transactivator of transcription, Tat. HIV-1 Tat mediates damage in the CNS by inducing inflammatory processes including astrogliosis. Wnt/β catenin signaling regulates survival processes for both neurons and astrocytes. Here, we evaluated the impact of Meth on the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in astrocytes transfected with Tat. Meth and Tat downregulated Wnt/β-catenin signaling by >50%, as measured by TOPflash reporter activity in both an astrocytoma cell line and primary human fetal astrocytes. Meth and Tat also down-regulated LEF-1 transcript by >30%. LEF-1 is a key partner of β-catenin to regulate cognate gene expression. Interestingly, estrogen, which induces β-catenin signaling in a cell-type specific manner, at physiological concentrations of 1.5 and 3 nM normalized individual Meth and Tat effects on β-catenin signaling but not their combined effects. These findings suggest that Meth and Tat likely exert different mechanisms to mediate down regulation of β-catenin signaling. The consequences of which may contribute to the pathophysiologic effects of HIV-1 and Meth co-morbidity in the CNS.
PMCID: PMC3714216  PMID: 21744004
Methamphetamine; HIV; Tat; β-catenin signaling; Astrocytes
20.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Tat Induces Apoptosis and Increases Sensitivity to Apoptotic Signals by Up-Regulating FLICE/Caspase-8 
Journal of Virology  1999;73(3):1956-1963.
Apoptosis contributes to the loss of CD4 cells during human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection. Although the product of the env gene, gp160/gp120, is known to play a role in cell death mediated by HIV-1, the role of other HIV-1 genes in the process is unclear. We found that HIV-1 lacking the env gene (HIVΔenv) still induced apoptosis in T-cell lines and primary CD4 T cells. The ability to induce apoptosis was attributable to Tat, a viral regulatory protein. Tat induction of apoptosis was separate from the transactivation function of Tat, required expression of the second exon of Tat, and was associated with the increased expression and activity of caspase-8 (casp-8), a signaling molecule in apoptotic pathways. Moreover, induction of apoptosis could be prevented by treating cells with an inhibitor of casp-8. In addition, we show that HIV-1Δenv infection and Tat expression increased the sensitivity of cells to Fas-mediated apoptosis, an apoptotic pathway that signals via casp-8. The up-regulation of casp-8 by HIV-1 Tat expression may contribute to the increased apoptosis and sensitivity to apoptotic signals observed in the cells of HIV-1-infected persons.
PMCID: PMC104437  PMID: 9971775
21.  Soy Isoflavones Genistein and Daidzein Exert Anti-Apoptotic Actions via a Selective ER-mediated Mechanism in Neurons following HIV-1 Tat1–86 Exposure 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37540.
HIV-1 viral protein Tat partially mediates the neural dysfunction and neuronal cell death associated with HIV-1 induced neurodegeneration and neurocognitive disorders. Soy isoflavones provide protection against various neurotoxic insults to maintain neuronal function and thus help preserve neurocognitive capacity.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We demonstrate in primary cortical cell cultures that 17β-estradiol or isoflavones (genistein or daidzein) attenuate Tat1–86-induced expression of apoptotic proteins and subsequent cell death. Exposure of cultured neurons to the estrogen receptor antagonist ICI 182,780 abolished the anti-apoptotic actions of isoflavones. Use of ERα or ERβ specific antagonists determined the involvement of both ER isoforms in genistein and daidzein inhibition of caspase activity; ERβ selectively mediated downregulation of mitochondrial pro-apoptotic protein Bax. The findings suggest soy isoflavones effectively diminished HIV-1 Tat-induced apoptotic signaling.
Collectively, our results suggest that soy isoflavones represent an adjunctive therapeutic option with combination anti-retroviral therapy (cART) to preserve neuronal functioning and sustain neurocognitive abilities of HIV-1 infected persons.
PMCID: PMC3358258  PMID: 22629415
22.  Enduring cortical alterations after a single in-vivo treatment of HIV-1 Tat 
Neuroreport  2012;23(14):825-829.
HIV-1 proteins, including the transactivator of transcription (Tat), are believed to be involved in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders by disrupting Ca2+ homeostasis, which leads to progressive dysregulation, damage, or death of neurons in the brain. We have found previously that bath-applied Tat abnormally increased Ca2+ influx through overactivated, voltage-sensitive L-type Ca2+ channels in pyramidal neurons within the rat medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). However, it is unknown whether the Tat-induced Ca2+ dysregulation was mediated by increased activity and/or the number of the L-channels. This study tested the hypothesis that transient/early exposure to Tat in vivo promoted enduring L-channel dysregulation in the mPFC without neuron loss. Accordingly, rats were administered a single intracerebroventricular injection of recombinant Tat (80 µg/20 µl; diluted by cerebrospinal fluids to pathophysiological concentrations) or vehicle. Rats were killed 14 days after injection for immunohistochemical assessments of the mPFC, motor cortex, caudate–putamen, and nucleus accumbens. Stereological estimates for positively stained cells indicated a significant increase in the number of cells expressing the pore-forming Cav1.2-α1c subunit of L-channels in the mPFC compared with other regions in Tat-treated or vehicle-treated rat brains. Optical density measurements showed a Tat-induced increase in glial fibrillary acidic protein expression, indicating astrogliosis in the cortical regions. There was no significant loss of neurons in any brain region investigated. These findings indicate that transient Tat exposure in vivo induced enduring L-channel dysregulation and astrogliosis in the mPFC without neuron loss. Such maladaptations may contribute toward dysregulated Ca2+ homeostasis and neuropathology in the PFC in the early stages of HIV infection.
PMCID: PMC3555038  PMID: 22828409
astrogliosis; L-type Ca2+ channels; medial prefrontal cortex; neuroAIDS
23.  Involvement of the p53 and p73 transcription factors in neuroAIDS 
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)  2008;7(17):2682-2690.
HIV-associated dementia (HAD) is the most common AIDS-associated neurological disorder and is characterized by the development of synaptodendritic injury to neurons. To advance HAD therapy, it is crucial to identify the mechanisms and factors involved. The viral protein HIV-1 Tat is among those factors and is released by HIV-1-infected cells and can be taken up by adjacent neuronal cells leading to neurotoxic effects. Multiple cellular host proteins have been identified as Tat cofactors in causing neuronal injury. Interestingly, most of these factors function through activation of the p53 pathway. We have now examined the ability of Tat to activate the p53 pathway leading to the induction of endogenous p53 and p73 in neuronal cells. We found that Tat induced p53 and p73 levels in SH-SY5Y cells and that this induction caused retraction of neurites. In the absence of either p53 or p73, Tat failed to induce dendritic retraction or to activate the proapoptotic proteins, such as Bax. Further, we found that p53-accumulation in Tat-treated cells depends on the presence of p73. Therefore, we conclude that Tat contributes to neuronal degeneration through activation of a pathway involving p53 and p73. This information will be valuable for the development of therapeutic agents that affect these pathways to protect CNS neurons and prevent HAD.
PMCID: PMC2670771  PMID: 18719392
HIV-1 Tat; neuronal degeneration; p53; apoptosis; p73; phosphorylation; HIV-associated dementia (HAD)
24.  Inhibition of SNAP25 Expression by HIV-1 Tat Involves the Activity of mir-128a 
Journal of cellular physiology  2008;216(3):764-770.
MicroRNAs (miRs) are short endogenous RNAs that regulate gene expression by incomplete pairing with messenger RNAs. An increasing number of studies show that mammalian microRNAs play fundamental roles in various aspects of cellular function including differentiation, proliferation, and cell death. Recent findings demonstrating the presence of microRNAs in mature neuronal dendrites suggest their possible involvement in controlling local protein translation and synaptic function. HIV-1 Encephalopathy (HIVE) is a manifestation of HIV-1 infection that often results in neuronal damage and dysfunction. While neurons are rarely, if ever, infected by HIV-1, they are exposed to cytotoxic viral and cellular factors including the HIV-1 transactivating factor Tat. In this study, we show that Tat deregulates expression levels of selected microRNAs, including the neuronal mir-128, in primary cortical neurons. We further show that mir-128a inhibits expression of the pre-synaptic protein SNAP25, whereas the anti-mir-128a partially restores Tat/mir-128a-induced downregulation of SNAP25 expression. Altogether, our data provide a novel mechanism by which HIV-Tat perturbs neuronal activity.
PMCID: PMC2662126  PMID: 18381601
25.  A Growth Factor Attenuates HIV-1 Tat and Morphine Induced Damage to Human Neurons: Implication in HIV/AIDS-Drug Abuse Cases 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e18116.
The neuropathological abnormalities of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 patients abusing illicit drugs suggest extensive interactions between the two agents, thereby leading to increased rate of progression to neurodegeneration. The role of HIV-1 transactivating protein, Tat has been elucidated in mediating neuronal damage via apoptosis, a hallmark of HIV-associated dementia (HAD), however the underlying mechanisms involved in enhanced neurodegeneration by illicit drugs remain elusive. In this study, we demonstrated that morphine enhances HIV-Tat induced toxicity in human neurons and neuroblastoma cells. Enhanced toxicity by Tat and morphine was accompanied by increased numbers of TUNEL positive apoptotic neurons, elevated caspase-3 levels and decreased ratio of anti- and pro-apoptotic proteins, Bcl2/Bax. Tat and morphine together elicited high levels of reactive oxygen species that were NADPH dependent. Significant alterations in mitochondrial membrane homeostasis were also observed with co-exposure of these agents. Extensive studies of mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways revealed the involvement of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1/2 (ERK1/2) pathways in enhanced toxicity of Tat and morphine. In addition to this, we found that pre-treatment of cells with platelet derived growth factor (PDGF-BB) protected neurons from HIV-Tat and morphine induced damage. PDGF-BB alleviated ROS production, maintained mitochondrial membrane potential, decreased caspase-3 activation and hence protected the cells from undergoing apoptosis. PDGF-BB mediated protection against Tat and morphine involved the phosphatidylinositol–3 kinase (PI3K) pathway, as specific inhibitor of PI3K abrogated the protection conferred by PDGF-BB. This study demonstrates the mechanism of enhanced toxicity in human neurons subjected to co-exposure of HIV protein Tat and morphine, thus implying its importance in HIV positive drug abusers, where damage to the brain is reported to be more severe than non-drug abusers. We have also showed for the first time that PDGF-BB can protect against simultaneous exposure of Tat and morphine, strengthening its role as a neuroprotective agent that could be considered for therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC3063804  PMID: 21483469

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