Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmacology & Toxicology

First Advisor

Kurt Hauser


Emerging evidence suggests that opioid drugs can exacerbate neuroAIDS. Microglia are the principal neuroimmune effectors thought to be responsible for neuron damage in HIV-infected individuals, and evidence suggests that drugs acting via opioid receptors in microglia aggravate the neuropathophysiological effects of HIV. The P2X family of ATP activated ligand-gated ion channels regulates key aspects of microglial function. In addition, opioid-dependent microglial activation has been reported to be mediated through P2X4 signaling, prompting us to investigate P2X receptors contribution to the neurotoxic effects of HIV and morphine. In vitro experiments showed treatment with TNP-ATP prevented the neurotoxic effects of morphine and/or HIV Tat, or ATP alone in a concentration dependent manner. This evidence suggests P2X receptors mediate the neurotoxic effects of these insults in striatal neurons. P2X1, P2X3, and P2X7 selective receptor antagonists did not prevent Tat- and/or morphine-induced neurotoxicity, implying cellular pathways activated may not involve these subtypes. Cells from P2X4KO mice show that activation of the P2X4 receptor on glia are necessary to cause Tat and/or morphine toxicity. However, data implied that baseline neuronal function may be altered due to lack of P2X4 receptor expression, and also gave evidence for altered Tat and morphine cellular signaling when the two are given in combination versus alone. Surgeries were performed on P2X4 KO and WT mice, which received intrastriatal Tat injections and morphine and/or naltrexone pellets. WT mice showed significant increases in inflammatory markers when treated with Tat and/or morphine. Increases in inflammatory markers were not seen in P2X4 KO mice, implying P2X4 receptors play a role in neuroinflammation resulting from Tat and/or morphine. Finally, human tissue samples from the National NeuroAIDS Tissue Consortium were analyzed. Changes in P2X5 and P2X7 mRNA were found in microarray data, but only changes in P2X7 mRNA levels were confirmed by RT-PCR. No changes in P2X4 mRNA levels were detected. Our experiments indicate the P2X receptor family contributes to Tat- and morphine- related neuronal injury, and reveal that members of the P2X receptor family, especially P2X4, may be novel therapeutic targets for restricting the synaptodendritic injury and neurodegeneration that accompany neuroAIDS and opiate abuse.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2014