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DNA Cell Biol. 2007 Feb;26(2):116-31.

HIV-1 Vpr potently induces programmed cell death in the CNS in vivo.

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The Dorrance H. Hamilton Laboratories, Division of Infectious Diseases and Environmental Medicine, Department of Medicine, Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

Erratum in

  • DNA Cell Biol. 2007 Mar;26(3):192. Cheng, Xiandong [corrected to Cheng, Xiaodong].


The human immunodeficiency virus type I (HIV-1) accessory protein Vpr has been associated with the induction of programmed cell death (apoptosis) and cell-cycle arrest. Studies have shown the apoptotic effect of Vpr on primary and established cell lines and on diverse tissues including the central nervous system (CNS) in vitro. However, the relevance of the effect of Vpr observed in vitro to HIV-1 neuropathogenesis in vivo, remains unknown. Due to the narrow host range of HIV-1 infection, no animal model is currently available. This has prompted us to consider a small animal model to evaluate the effects of Vpr on CNS in vivo through surrogate viruses expressing HIV-1Vpr. A single round of replication competent viral vectors, expressing Vpr, were used to investigate the apoptosis-inducing capabilities of HIV-1Vpr in vivo. Viral particles pseudotyped with VSV-G or N2c envelopes were generated from spleen necrosis virus (SNV) and HIV-1-based vectors to transduce CNS cells. The in vitro studies have demonstrated that Vpr generated by SNV vectors had less apoptotic effects on CNS cells compared with Vpr expressed by HIV-1 vectors. The in vivo study has suggested that viral particles, expressing Vpr generated by HIV-1-based vectors, when delivered through the ventricle, caused loss of neurons and dendritic processes in the cortical region. The apoptotic effect was extended beyond the cortical region and affected the hippocampus neurons, the lining of the choroids plexus, and the cerebellum. However, the effect of Vpr, when delivered through the cortex, showed neuronal damage only around the site of injection. Interestingly, the number of apoptotic neurons were significantly higher with HIV-1 vectors expressing Vpr than by the SNV vectors. This may be due to the differences in the proteins expressed by these viral vectors. These results suggest that Vpr induces apoptosis in CNS cells in vitro and in vivo. To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate the apoptosis-inducing capabilities of HIV-1Vpr in vivo in neonatal mice. We propose that this, in expensive animal model, may be of value to design-targeted neuroprotective therapeutics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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