, Volume 99, Issue 4, pp 376-384

Neuronal damage of the substantia nigra in HIV-1 infected brains

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Extrapyramidal motor disorders are frequently noted in HIV-1-infected patients. In the present study, the substantia nigra was analyzed morphometrically to detect neuronal changes which might contribute to the pathogenetic mechanisms causing extrapyramidal motor dysfunction in HIV-1-infected patients. The numerical density and the size of pigmented, non-pigmented small, and non-pigmented large neurons in four nuclei of the substantia nigra pars compacta (antero-medial, antero-intermediolateral, postero-lateral, and postero-medial nuclei) in HIV-1-infected patients and in age-matched normal controls were determined. In HIV-1-infected brains, the numerical density of total neurons (i.e., pigmented and non-pigmented) as well as of pigmented neurons was significantly decreased, whereas that of non-pigmented neurons was not significantly changed in all investigated nuclei of the substantia nigra as compared to normal controls. A specific pattern of increase and decrease of non-pigmented large and non-pigmented small neurons was observed. The size of total neurons (pigmented and non-pigmented neurons) and of pigmented neurons was significantly reduced in all investigated nuclei of HIV-1-infected brains. The results suggest that neuronal degeneration in the substantia nigra commonly occurs and may be related to extrapyramidal symptoms in HIV-1-infected patients.

Received: 22 February 1999 / Revised, accepted: 12 August 1999