Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Pamela E. Knapp


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infected patients with a history of injection opiate abuse have higher incidences of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and neurological dysfunction. The use of combined anti-retroviral therapy has significantly reduced the prevalence of mortality and progression to AIDS. Due to extended life expectancy, these patients are still at a great risk for HIV-associated neurological disorders and impairment in their later life. Neural progenitor cells (NPCs) play critical roles in brain growth and repair after injury and insult. Pediatric HIV patients whose glial populations are still developing are especially at risk for central nervous system (CNS) damage. Our previous reports suggest that HIV-1 transactivator of transcription (Tat) can directly cause pathology in neural progenitors and oligodendroglia (OLs) (Hauser et al. 2009). Thus, we have hypothesized that NPCs and/or glial progenitors may be targets of HIV proteins ± opiates drugs of abuse. To determine whether progenitors are targets of HIV-1, a multi-plex assay was performed to assess chemokine/cytokine expression after treatment with viral proteins Tat or glycoprotein 120 (gp120) with/without morphine. Murine striatal progenitors released increased amount of the beta-chemokines CCL5/regulated upon activation, normal T cell expressed and secreted (RANTES), CCL3/macrophage inflammatory protein-1α (MIP-1α), and CCL4/macrophage inflammatory protein-1β (MIP-1β) after 12 h exposure to HIV-1 Tat, but no to gp120. Secreted factors from Tat-treated progenitors were chemoattractive towards microglia, an effect blocked by 2D7 anti- C-C chemokine receptor type 5 (CCR5) antibody pre-treatment. Tat and opiates have interactive effects on astroglial chemokine secretion, but this interaction did not occur in progenitors. We also examined effects of Tat and morphine on proliferation and lineage progression of NPCs in vitro and in vivo. In vitro, Tat and morphine independently reduced the proliferation and population of Sox2+ and Olig2+ cells in the absence of cell death. The interactive effects of morphine and either Tat or supernatant from HIV-1SF162 infected monocytes varied depending on outcome measure and time of exposure, but interactive effects occurred primarily on proliferation. In rare instances, viable human progenitors were associated with p24 immunolabeling suggesting that progenitors may be infected, a concept that is still controversial. To investigate effects of Tat and morphine on NPCs in vivo, we used a mouse model in which HIV-1 Tat1-86 is conditionally expressed in astroglia. In vivo results in neonatal striata were similar to those in cell cultures. We extended the experiments into adult mice with inducing Tat expression for 3 month and the effect of sexes was examined in these animals. Intriguingly, males showed more Tat-induced impairment in behavioral tests (rotarod, grip strength, light-dark box) than females. Tat+ males also showed a greater reduction in the proportion of NeuN+ cells and NeuN immunoreactivity in the striatum, accompanied by greater microglial activation (3-nitrotyrosine+/Iba-1+). Unbiased stereological estimation in Nissl staining revealed that the depletion of NeuN immunoreactivity in these mice was not due to neuron cell death or loss, because the total neuron number in striatum and total striatal volume were not affected by long-term Tat induction. Tat exposure appears to selectively reduce levels of NeuN in living neurons, although the reason is not known. Therefore, both the enhanced microglial reactivity and depletion of NeuN levels in males may help to explain sex-specific behavioral outcomes. Sox2+ and Olig2+ cells showed equivalent reduction in their population in both sexes. Overall, our findings show that CNS progenitors, including both undifferentiated NPCs and glial progenitors, are vulnerable to individual or combined effects of HIV-1 or Tat and opiates. Changes in progenitor dynamics may alter the balance of cell populations in both the developing and adult CNS. We speculate that such changes may contribute to the behavioral abnormalities that we observed in Tat+ mice and which appear to model aspects of motor, cognitive and anxiety deficits in HIV-infected patients.


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