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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2017 Nov 22;61(12). pii: e01307-17. doi: 10.1128/AAC.01307-17. Print 2017 Dec.

Effects of HIV-1 Tat and Methamphetamine on Blood-Brain Barrier Integrity and Function In Vitro.

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Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science, School of Pharmacy, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA.
Institut Cochin, Paris, France.
Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York, USA.
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA.
Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science, School of Pharmacy, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA


Human immunodeficiency (HIV) infection results in neurocognitive deficits in about one half of infected individuals. Despite systemic effectiveness, restricted antiretroviral penetration across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a major limitation in fighting central nervous system (CNS)-localized infection. Drug abuse exacerbates HIV-induced cognitive and pathological CNS changes. This study's purpose was to investigate the effects of the HIV-1 protein Tat and methamphetamine on factors affecting drug penetration across an in vitro BBB model. Factors affecting paracellular and transcellular flux in the presence of Tat and methamphetamine were examined. Transendothelial electrical resistance, ZO-1 expression, and lucifer yellow (a paracellular tracer) flux were aspects of paracellular processes that were examined. Additionally, effects on P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and multidrug resistance protein 1 (MRP-1) mRNA (via quantitative PCR [qPCR]) and protein (via immunoblotting) expression were measured; Pgp and MRP-1 are drug efflux proteins. Transporter function was examined after exposure of Tat with or without methamphetamine using the P-gp substrate rhodamine 123 and also using the dual P-gp/MRP-1 substrate and protease inhibitor atazanavir. Tat and methamphetamine elicit complex changes affecting transcellular and paracellular transport processes. Neither Tat nor methamphetamine significantly altered P-gp expression. However, Tat plus methamphetamine exposure significantly increased rhodamine 123 accumulation within brain endothelial cells, suggesting that treatment inhibited or impaired P-gp function. Intracellular accumulation of atazanavir was not significantly altered after Tat or methamphetamine exposure. Atazanavir accumulation was, however, significantly increased by simultaneous inhibition of P-gp and MRP. Collectively, our investigations indicate that Tat and methamphetamine alter aspects of BBB integrity without affecting net flux of paracellular compounds. Tat and methamphetamine may also affect several aspects of transcellular transport.


HIV-1; P-glycoprotein; Tat; blood-brain barrier; drug abuse; drug transport; human immunodeficiency virus; methamphetamine

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