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J Clin Invest. 1993 Jun;91(6):2769-75.

Quantitation of human immunodeficiency virus, immune activation factors, and quinolinic acid in AIDS brains.

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Department of Pathology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0612.


HIV encephalitis is unusual in that neurologic damage occurs in the absence of significant infection of neuronal or glial cells. Because the predominant infected cell in the brain is the macrophage, it has been proposed that release of viral or immune activation factors from macrophages may mediate neurologic damage. Numerous studies have examined the concentration of immune activation factors in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), however, there has been no correlation between these CSF measurements and severity of HIV encephalitis (Wiley, C.A., C.L. Achim, R.D. Schrier, M.P. Heyes, J.A. McCutchen, and I. Grant. 1992. AIDS (Phila.). 6:1299-1307. Because CSF measurements may not represent tissue concentrations of these factors, we examined the concentrations of HIV p24, quinolinic acid (QUIN), IL-1, IL-3, IL-6, TNF-alpha, and GMCSF within the brains of 10 AIDS autopsies. Homogenization and extraction of cortical gray, cortical white and deep gray matter showed a good correlation between the amount of HIV gp41 immunostaining and extracted HIV gag protein p24. The concentrations of cytokines were low in the tissue extracts and showed no correlation with severity of HIV encephalitis. Brain extracts from mild cases of HIV encephalitis showed elevated levels of TNF-alpha in deep gray matter, while in more severe cases, elevated TNF-alpha levels were also found within cortical white and cortical gray matter. Brain tissue and CSF QUIN concentrations were substantially increased compared to control values. QUIN concentrations were not correlated with the severity of HIV encephalitis. We conclude that increased tissue levels of TNF-alpha and QUIN may have a role in the etiology of HIV-related neurologic dysfunction.

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