Efavirenz is a widely prescribed non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor for the treatment of HIV infections. To test for potential long-term consequences of efavirenz on brain cells, cultured primary astrocytes were incubated with this substance or with its primary metabolite 8-hydroxy efavirenz for up to 7 days. Both, efavirenz and 8-hydroxy efavirenz caused time- and concentration-dependent cell toxicity and stimulated in subtoxic concentrations the glycolytic flux (glucose consumption and lactate release) in astrocytes. As 8-hydroxy efavirenz was less toxic than efavirenz and stimulated glycolysis in lower concentrations we tested for a potential hydroxylation of efavirenz to 8-hydroxy efavirenz in astrocytes. Analysis of media and cell lysates by HPLC-UV and mass spectrometry revealed that after 3 days of incubation viable astrocytes had accumulated about 17 and 7 % of the applied efavirenz and 8-hydroxy efavirenz, respectively. However, in cultures treated with efavirenz neither 8-hydroxy efavirenz nor any other known metabolite of efavirenz was detectable. These data demonstrate that cultured rat astrocytes efficiently accumulate, but not metabolize, efavirenz and 8-hydroxy efavirenz and that the observed chronic stimulation of glycolysis is mediated by both efavirenz and 8-hydroxy efavirenz.
Consequences of a Chronic Exposure of Cultured Brain Astrocytes to the Anti-Retroviral Drug Efavirenz and its Primary Metabolite 8-Hydroxy Efavirenz.