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AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2004 Oct;20(10):1072-86.

Development of neuronal sensitivity to toxins in cerebrospinal fluid from HIV-type 1-infected individuals.

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Department of Neurology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.


HIV infection of the immature nervous system generally results in a rapid progression of neurological disease that cannot easily be explained by the severity of encephalitis, viral burden, systemic immune deficiency, or developmental changes in utero. Rather than the viral infection dictating disease progression, we explored the possibility that immature neurons might be particularly sensitive to toxins secreted in response to HIV. Primary cultures of rat cortical neurons were exposed to toxic cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from HIV-infected individuals (CSF(tox)) and evaluated for changes in intracellular calcium and cell death. CSF(tox) had no detectable effect on early neurite outgrowth, calcium regulation, or cell death during the first few days in culture. Starting at Day 4, delayed increases in intracellular calcium appeared in response to CSF(tox). The magnitude of the delayed calcium rise and cell death increased with the age of the culture and correlated with the appearance of synaptophysin immunoreactive varicosities. A similar gradual development of sensitivity was seen during exposure of feline neurons to toxins generated by choroid plexus macrophages after exposure to feline immunodeficiency virus. The possibility that toxin sensitivity is dependent on the presence of synaptic activity is consistent with the rapid pathogenesis in the CNS seen during the first postnatal year. Emerging synaptic activity coupled with other factors such as high metabolic demand in the young nervous system may combine to increase the likelihood of calcium overload and neuronal dysfunction in response to HIV-associated toxins.

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