PloS one 2017 01 2012(1) e0169945 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0169945
The underlying mechanisms for increased neurodegeneration and neurocognitive deficits in HIV-infected people are unclear. Therefore, this study was aimed to investigate the mechanisms of increased neurodegeneration in 5-month old male HIV-1 Transgenic (Tg) rats compared to the age- and gender-matched wild-type (WT) by evaluating histological changes and biochemical parameters of the key proteins involved in the cell death signaling and apoptosis. Histological and immunohistochemical analyses revealed decreased neuronal cells with elevated astrogliosis in HIV-1 Tg rats compared to WT. Mechanistic studies revealed that increased levels of nitroxidative stress marker proteins such as NADPH-oxidase, cytochrome P450-2E1 (CYP2E1), inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), the stress-activated mitogen-activated protein kinases such as JNK and p38K, activated cell-cycle dependent CDK5, hypoxia-inducible protein-1α, nitrated proteins, hyperphosphorylated tau, and amyloid plaques in HIV-Tg rats were consistently observed in HIV-1 Tg rats. Confocal microscopy and cell viability analyses showed that treatment with an antioxidant N-acetylcysteine or a specific inhibitor of iNOS 1400W significantly prevented the increased apoptosis of neuro-2A cells by HIV-1 Tat or gp120 protein, demonstrating the causal role of HIV-1 mediated nitroxidative stress and protein nitration in promoting neuronal cell death. Immunoprecipitation and immunoblot analysis confirmed nitration of Hsp90, evaluated as an example of nitrated proteins, suggesting possible involvement of nitrated proteins in neuronal damage. Further, activated p-JNK directly binds tau and phosphorylates multiple amino acids, suggesting an important role of p-JNK in tau hyperphosphorylation and tauopathy. These changes were accompanied with elevated levels of many apoptosis-related proteins Bax and cleaved (activated) caspase-3 as well as proinflammatory cytokines including TNF-α, IL-6 and MCP-1. Collectively, these results indicate that raised nitroxidative stress accompanied by elevated inflammation, cell death signaling pathway including activated p-JNK, C-terminal C99 amyloid fragment formation and tau hyperphosphorylation are responsible for increased apoptosis of neuronal cells and neurodegeneration in 5-month old HIV-Tg rats.