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Adv Neuroimmunol. 1995;5(3):335-58.

Role of immune activation and cytokine expression in HIV-1-associated neurologic diseases.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Tohoku University School of Medicine, Sendai, Japan.


Central nervous system (CNS) involvement is common during human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) infection. The neurologic disease of the CNS most frequently observed during acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is HIV-1-associated cognitive/motor complex or AIDS dementia complex (ADC), which is most likely a direct consequence of HIV-1 infection of the CNS. The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is also affected in HIV-1-infected individuals and there are several features of immune- and cytokine-related pathogenesis in both the CNS and PNS that are reviewed. Several lines of evidence demonstrate aspects of immune activation in the CNS and peripheral nervous system (PNS) of HIV-1-infected individuals. The relative paucity of HIV-1 expression in contrast to widespread functional and pathologic changes in the CNS and PNS of AIDS patients, and the lack of evidence of productive infection of HIV-1 in neuronal cells in vivo lead to the possibility of indirect or immunopathogenic mechanisms for HIV-1-related neurologic diseases. Proposed mechanisms of neuronal and glial cell damage are injury of oligodendrocytes by tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) released from activated macrophage/microglia, calcium-dependent excitoneurotoxicity induced by gp120 HIV-1 envelope protein, N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated neurotoxicity by quinolinic acid (a product of activated macrophages), cell injury by HIV-1-specific cytotoxic T cells, and apoptosis of oligodendrocytes or neurons triggered by interaction between cell surface receptors and HIV-1 gp120 protein. Common to those mechanisms is the dependence on cellular activation with expression of proinflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha, interleukin-1). Amplification of activation signals through the cytokine network by macrophage/astrocyte/endothelial cell interactions, and cell-to-cell contact between activated macrophages and neural cells by upregulation of adhesion molecules dramatically enhances the toxic effect of macrophage products. Expression of immunosuppressive cytokines such as interleukin-4, interleukin-6, and transforming growth factor-beta is also increased in the CNS and PNS of HIV-1-infected patients. This may serve as neuroprotective and regenerative mechanism against insults to nervous system tissue.

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