Neurotoxic effects of the HCV core protein are mediated by sustained activation of ERK via TLR2 signaling
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- Paulino, A.D., Ubhi, K., Rockenstein, E. et al. J. Neurovirol. (2011) 17: 327. doi:10.1007/s13365-011-0039-0
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a serious problem among those co-infected with human immunodeficiency virus; however, its impact in the central nervous system (CNS) remains unclear. This study aimed to investigate the mechanisms underlying HCV core protein-mediated neurodegeneration. Analysis of human HCV seropositive cases demonstrated widespread damage to neuronal dendritic processes and sustained activation of extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK); analogous pathologies were observed in wild type injected with HCV core protein into the hippocampus. In vitro analysis in neuronal cells exposed to HCV core demonstrated retraction of the neuronal processes in an ERK/Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3 (STAT3)-dependent manner dependent on toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) signaling activation. These results indicate that HCV core protein neurotoxicity may be mediated by the sustained activation of ERK/STAT3 via TLR2-IRAK1 signaling pathway. These pathways provide novel targets for development of neuroprotective treatments for HCV involvement of the CNS.