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Neurobiol Dis. 2013 Jul;55:110-9. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2013.02.004. Epub 2013 Feb 27.

Increased excitability in tat-transgenic mice: role of tat in HIV-related neurological disorders.

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Department of Medical Sciences, Neuroscience Center, University of Ferrara, National Institute of Neuroscience, Italy.


HIV-1 associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) are a major complication of HIV-1 infection. The mechanism(s) underlying HAND are not completely understood but, based on in vitro studies, the HIV-1 Tat protein may play an important role. In this study, the effect of prolonged exposure to endogenously produced Tat in the brain was investigated using a tat-transgenic (TT) mouse model constitutively expressing the HIV-1 tat gene. We found that stimulus-evoked glutamate exocytosis in the hippocampus and cortex was significantly increased in TT as compared with wild-type control (CC) mice, while GABA exocytosis was unchanged in the hippocampus and decreased in the cortex. This suggests that Tat generates a latent hyper-excitability state, which favors the detrimental effects of neurotoxic and/or excitotoxic agents. To challenge this idea, TT mice were tested for susceptibility to kainate-induced seizures and neurodegeneration, and found to exhibit significantly greater responses to the convulsant agent than CC mice. These results support the concept that constitutive expression of tat in the brain generates a latent excitatory state, which may increase the negative effects of damaging insults. These events may play a key role in the development of HAND.

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