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J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2007 Dec;2(4):319-28. Epub 2007 Jun 22.

Spatial learning and memory in HIV-1 transgenic rats.

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Department of Psychology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ 07079, USA.


HIV-1 infection of the central nervous system impairs neural, cognitive, and behavioral functioning in patients despite antiretroviral therapy. However, studying mechanisms underlying HIV-1-related neurological and cognitive dysfunction has been limited without an adequate animal model. A novel, noninfectious HIV-1 transgenic (HIV-1Tg) rat model was recently created that expresses an HIV-1 provirus with a deletion of functional gag and pol genes. This HIV-1Tg rat reportedly develops clinical manifestations of human HIV disease and thus appears to mimic the persistent infection that results from the presence of HIV viral proteins in the host. We evaluated the HIV-1Tg rat model using the Morris water maze, a popular paradigm for testing learning and memory deficits in rodents. Because of congenital cataracts in HIV-1Tg rats, however, the traditional use of visual navigational cues in this paradigm were precluded. We first designed a modified Morris water maze and demonstrated that neurologically intact rats can effectively learn the water maze in the absence of visual cues and in the presence of non-visual navigation cues. We then tested HIV-1Tg rats in this modified Morris water maze. These HIV-1Tg rats showed a deficit in learning how to swim to the location of the hidden platform but did not show a deficit in their memory of the general location of the hidden platform. These results suggest that the noninfectious HIV-1Tg rat can be a valid model for the behavioral studies of HIV-related neurological dysfunction.

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