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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 May 4;101(18):7070-5. Epub 2004 Apr 21.

HIV-1-mediated apoptosis of neuronal cells: Proximal molecular mechanisms of HIV-1-induced encephalopathy.

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  • 1Dorrance H. Hamilton Laboratories, Center for Human Virology and Biodefense, Division of Infectious Diseases and Environmental Medicine, Department of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University, 1020 Locust Street, Suite 329, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.


The induction of neuronal cell death in vivo has been recognized as a prominent feature of HIV type I (HIV-1) infection leading to HIV-1-induced encephalopathy. Viral and host cell products, released from HIV-1-infected cells, have been implicated as inducers of neuronal cell apoptosis. It is unclear which is more important in this process. Neuronal cells were treated with media bearing HIV-1 virions derived from infected T cells and macrophage or the same set of media depleted of virions. T cell media bearing virus induced high levels of apoptosis, whereas that depleted of virions did not. In contrast, neurons treated with media from infected macrophages induced cell death whether virions were present or depleted by ultracentrifugation. The former initiated a repeatedly and significantly higher degree of apoptosis. These data suggest that exposure of neurons to viral products is critical for the induction of apoptosis, in addition to putative host factors released from virally infected cells. Protein-array analyses identified host cell factors up-regulated from infected macrophages, versus their uninfected counterparts, and these host cell factors may be prime candidates for contributing to neuronal apoptosis. Gene-array analyses also identified mRNAs up-regulated in human neurons after treatment with purified HIV-1 gp120 envelope protein or virus-containing media from HIV-1-infected macrophages. These analyses suggest molecular mechanisms for the induction of apoptosis relating to the exposure of viral and host cell factors and rationally designed approaches toward neuroprotection.

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