Opiate abuse is prevalent among HIV-infected individuals and may exacerbate HIV-associated age-related neurocognitive disorders. However, the extent to which HIV and opiates converge to accelerate pathological traits indicative of brain aging remains unknown. The pathological phospho-isotypes of tau (pSer396, pSer404, pThr205, pSer202, and pThr181) and the tau kinases GSK3β and CDK5/p35 were explored in the striatum, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex of inducible male and female HIV-1 Tat transgenic mice with some receiving escalating doses of morphine for 2 weeks. In the striatum of male mice, pSer396 was increased by co-exposure to morphine and Tat as compared to all other groups. Striatal pSer404 and pThr205 were increased by Tat alone, while pSer202 and pThr181 were unchanged. A comparison between Tat transgenic female and male mice revealed disparate outcomes for pThr205. No other sex-related changes to tau phosphorylation were observed. In the hippocampus, Tat increased pSer396, while other phosphorylation sites were unchanged and pSer202 was not detected. In the prefrontal cortex, morphine increased pSer396 levels, which was unaffected by Tat, while other phosphorylation sites were unaffected. Assessment of tau kinases revealed no changes to striatal GSK3β (phosphorylated or total) or the total CDK5 levels. Striatal levels of phosphorylated CDK5 and p35, the activator of CDK5, were increased by Tat and with morphine co-exposure, respectively. P35 levels positively correlated with those of pSer396 with Tat and morphine co-exposure. The results reveal region-specific hyperphosphorylation of tau induced by exposure to morphine, Tat, and unique morphine and Tat interactions.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.

References

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