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Papers of the Week

Papers: 20 Feb 2021 - 26 Feb 2021

Animal Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2021 Feb 22

J Neuroimmune Pharmacol

Expression of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transactivator of Transcription (HIV-Tat) Protein Alters Nociceptive Processing that is Sensitive to Anti-Oxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Interventions.


Cirino TJ, Alleyne AR, Duarte V, Figueroa A, Simons CA, Anceaume EM, Kendrick J, Wallman O, Eans SO, Stacy HM, Medina JM, McLaughlin JP
J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2021 Feb 22.
PMID: 33619645.


Despite the success of combined antiretroviral therapy (cART) in reducing viral load, a substantial portion of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)+ patients report chronic pain. The exact mechanism underlying this co-morbidity even with undetectable viral load remains unknown, but the transactivator of transcription (HIV-Tat) protein is of particular interest. Functional HIV-Tat protein is observed even in cerebrospinal fluid of patients who have an undetectable viral load. It is hypothesized that Tat protein exposure is sufficient to induce neuropathic pain-like manifestations via both activation of microglia and generation of oxidative stress. iTat mice conditionally expressed Tat protein in the central nervous system upon daily administration of doxycycline (100 mg/kg/d, i.p., up to 14 days). The effect of HIV-Tat protein exposure on the well-being of the animal was assessed using sucrose-evoked grooming and acute nesting behavior for pain-depressed behaviors, and the development of hyperalgesia assessed with warm-water tail-withdrawal and von Frey assays for thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia, respectively. Tissue harvested at select time points was used to assess ex vivo alterations in oxidative stress, astrocytosis and microgliosis, and blood-brain barrier integrity with assays utilizing fluorescence-based indicators. Tat protein induced mild thermal hyperalgesia but robust mechanical allodynia starting after 4 days of exposure, reaching a nadir after 7 days. Changes in nociceptive processing were associated with reduced sucrose-evoked grooming behavior without altering acute nesting behavior, and in spinal cord dysregulated free radical generation as measured by DCF fluorescence intensity, altered immunohistochemical expression of the gliotic markers, Iba-1 and GFAP, and increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier to the small molecule fluorescent tracer, sodium fluorescein, in a time-dependent manner. Pretreatment with the anti-inflammatory, indomethacin (1 mg/kg/d, i.p.), the antioxidant, methylsulfonylmethane (100 mg/kg/d i.p.), or the immunomodulatory agent, dimethylfumarate (100 mg/kg/d p.o.) thirty minutes prior to daily injections of doxycycline (100 mg/kg/d i.p.) over 7 days significantly attenuated the development of Tat-induced mechanical allodynia. Collectively, the data suggests that even acute exposure to HIV-1 Tat protein at pathologically relevant levels is sufficient to produce select neurophysiological and behavioral manifestations of chronic pain consistent with that reported by HIV-positive patients.