HIV protease inhibitors disrupt astrocytic glutamate transporter function and neurobehavioral performance

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Abstract

Objective:

The neurotoxic actions of the HIV protease inhibitors, amprenavir (APV) and lopinavir (LPV) were investigated.

Design:

With combination antiretroviral therapy (cART), HIV-infected persons exhibit neurocognitive impairments, raising the possibility that cART might exert adverse central nervous system (CNS) effects. We examined the effects of LPV and APV using in-vitro and in-vivo assays of CNS function.

Methods:

Gene expression, cell viability and amino-acid levels were measured in human astrocytes, following exposure to APV or LPV. Neurobehavioral performance, amino-acid levels and neuropathology were examined in HIV-1 Vpr transgenic mice after treatment with APV or LPV.

Results:

Excitatory amino-acid transporter-2 (EAAT2) expression was reduced in astrocytes treated with LPV or APV, especially LPV (P < 0.05), which was accompanied by reduced intracellular L-glutamate levels in LPV-treated cells (P < 0.05). Treatment of astrocytes with APV or LPV reduced the expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) and Ki-67 (P < 0.05) although cell survival was unaffected. Exposure of LPV to astrocytes augmented glutamate-evoked transient rises in [Cai] (P < 0.05). Vpr mice treated with LPV showed lower concentrations of L-glutamate, L-aspartate and L-serine in cortex compared with vehicle-treated mice (P < 0.05). Total errors in T-maze assessment were increased in LPV and APV-treated animals (P < 0.05). EAAT2 expression was reduced in the brains of protease inhibitor-treated animals, which was associated with gliosis (P < 0.05).

Conclusion:

These results indicated that contemporary protease inhibitors disrupt astrocyte functions at therapeutic concentrations with enhanced sensitivity to glutamate, which can lead to neurobehavioral impairments. ART neurotoxicity should be considered in future therapeutic regimens for HIV/AIDS.

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