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Eur J Neurosci. 2010 Sep;32(5):811-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2010.07355.x. Epub 2010 Aug 19.

Alcohol consumption enhances antiretroviral painful peripheral neuropathy by mitochondrial mechanisms.

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  • 1NIH Pain Center (UCSF), Division of Neuroscience and Biomedical Sciences Program, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


A major dose-limiting side effect of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) chemotherapies, such as the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), is a small-fiber painful peripheral neuropathy, mediated by its mitochondrial toxicity. Co-morbid conditions may also contribute to this dose-limiting effect of HIV/AIDS treatment. Alcohol abuse, which alone also produces painful neuropathy, is one of the most important co-morbid risk factors for peripheral neuropathy in patients with HIV/AIDS. Despite the prevalence of this problem and its serious impact on the quality of life and continued therapy in HIV/AIDS patients, the mechanisms by which alcohol abuse exacerbates highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)-induced neuropathic pain has not been demonstrated. In this study, performed in rats, we investigated the cellular mechanism by which consumed alcohol impacts antiretroviral-induced neuropathic pain. NRTI 2',3'-dideoxycytidine (ddC; 50 mg/kg) neuropathy was mitochondrial-dependent and PKCε-independent, and alcohol-induced painful neuropathy was PKCε-dependent and mitochondrial-independent. At low doses, ddC (5 mg/kg) and alcohol (6.5% ethanol diet for 1 week), which alone do not affect nociception, together produce profound mechanical hyperalgesia. This hyperalgesia is mitochondrial-dependent but PKCε-independent. These experiments, which provide the first model for studying the impact of co-morbidity in painful neuropathy, support the clinical impression that alcohol consumption enhances HIV/AIDS therapy neuropathy, and provide evidence for a role of mitochondrial mechanisms underlying this interaction.

© 2010 The Authors. European Journal of Neuroscience © 2010 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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