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Neuroscience. 2001;107(1):51-8.

Reactive oxygen species generated by glia are responsible for neuron death induced by human immunodeficiency virus-glycoprotein 120 in vitro.

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Department of Pharmacological Sciences, Università degli Studi di Milano, via Balzaretti 9, 20133, Milan, Italy.


Human immunodeficiency virus infection is often followed by neurodegeneration, the cause of motor and cognitive impairment in some patients affected by acquired immunodeficiency. Several in vitro data indicate glycoprotein (gp) 120 as one of the substances responsible for the neurodegenerative event that takes place only if non-neuronal cells (glial cells) are present. Our purpose was to investigate the molecular mechanisms through which glial cells could affect neuron viability after exposure to gp120 protein. We used a sandwich co-culture of primary hippocampal neurons and primary glial cells, where the two cell populations face each other but are separable. Exposure of 1-week-old rat hippocampal neurons in co-culture with glia to 600 pM gp120 protein resulted in the death of 30% of neurons after 6 days of treatment. A significant increase of intracellular calcium ([Ca2+]i), evident 72 h after gp120 exposure (control 45.8+/-7.6 nM, gp120 176.5+/-43.6 nM), preceded neuron death. The gp120 protein affected neither the viability nor the morphology or [Ca2+]i of glial cells. However, a significant amount of reactive oxygen species as well as of interleukin-1beta was produced. Treatment of the co-culture with an antibody against interleukin-1beta prevented neuron increase of [Ca2+]i and cell death but not glial production of reactive oxygen species, whereas prior incubation of glial cells with Trolox, an antioxidant analog of vitamin E, down-regulated interleukin-1beta expression and completely prevented neuron cell death. Our results indicate that reactive oxygen species produced in glial cells by gp120 exposure cause neurodegeneration by inducing the synthesis of interleukin-1beta.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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