, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 242-251

Gp120-mediated cytotoxicity of human brain microvascular endothelial cells is dependent on p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase activation

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Breakdown of the blood-brain barrier has been shown to contribute to neurological disorders that are prevalent in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected individuals, but the mechanisms involved in HIV-1-associated blood-brain barrier dysfunction remain incompletely understood. Using human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMECs) that constitute the blood-brain barrier, the authors determined the cytotoxic effects of gp120 on HBMECs. The authors showed that gp120 induced cytotoxicity of HBMECs derived from children, which required cotreatment with interferon (IFN)-γ. IFN-γ treatment exhibited up-regulation of the chemokine receptors CCR3 and CCR5 in children’s HBMECs. In contrast, HBMECs isolated from adults were not responsive to gp120-mediated cytotoxicity. Peptides of gp120 representing binding regions for CD4 and chemokine receptors as well as CD4 antibody inhibited gp120-mediated cytotoxicity of HBMECs. RANTES, as expected, inhibited M-tropic gp120-mediated HBMEC cytotoxicity, whereas stromal cell-derived factor (SDF)-1α failed to inhibit T-tropic gp120-mediated cytotoxicity. Of interest, gp120 peptides representing non-CD4/non-chemokine receptor binding regions inhibited gp120-mediated HBMEC cytotoxicity. In addition, the authors showed that gp120-mediated HBMEC cytotoxicity involved p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. Taken together, these findings showed that gp120, in the presence of IFN-γ, can cause dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier endothelium via MAPK pathways involving several gp120-HBMEC interactions.

This work was supported by NIH grants.