The American journal of pathology 2017 07 05() pii 10.1016/j.ajpath.2017.05.011
Chronic HIV infection due to effective antiretroviral treatment has resulted in a broad range of clinical complications, including accelerated heart disease. Individuals with HIV infection have a 1.5 to 2 times higher incidence of cardiovascular diseases than their uninfected counterparts; however, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. To explore the link between HIV infection and cardiovascular diseases, we used postmortem human heart tissues obtained from HIV-infected and control uninfected individuals to examine connexin 43 (Cx43) expression and distribution and HIV-associated inflammation. Here, we demonstrate that Cx43 is dysregulated in the hearts of HIV-infected individuals. In all HIV heart samples analyzed, there were areas where Cx43 was overexpressed and found along the lateral membrane of the cardiomyocyte and in the intercalated disks. Areas of HIV tissue with anomalous Cx43 expression and localization also showed calcium overload, sarcofilamental atrophy, and accumulation of collagen. All these changes were independent of viral replication, CD4 counts, inflammation, and type of antiretroviral treatment. Overall, we propose that HIV infection increases Cx43 expression in heart, resulting in tissue damage that likely contributes to the high rates of cardiovascular disease in HIV-infected individuals.