Plasma dickkopf-related protein 1, an antagonist of the Wnt pathway, is associated with HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment

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Objective:Dickkopf-related protein 1 (DKK1) is a soluble antagonist of the Wningless (Wnt) pathway. It binds to and sequesters low-density lipoprotein receptor-related proteins 5/6 away from Wnts. Because the Wnt pathway regulates synaptic transmission and plasticity, we hypothesized that increased DKK1 would increase the risk for neurocognitive impairment (NCI) in HIV-positive (HIV+) individuals. We evaluated, here, the relationship between plasma DKK1 and global NCI.Methods:Plasma samples and data from 41 HIV+ to 42 HIV adults were obtained from the University of California, San Diego, California, USA. Concentrations of DKK1 and a comparator protein, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), were quantified in plasma by immunoassay. All study participants completed a standardized comprehensive neuropsychological test battery and their performance was summarized using the global deficit score method.Results:A higher DKK1 level was associated with NCI among HIV+ participants (d = 0.63, P = 0.05), particularly among the 26 participants whose plasma HIV RNA level was suppressed (d = 0.74, P = 0.08). DKK1 level was not associated with NCI among HIV participants (P = 0.98). was not associated with NCI in either group. In HIV+ adults with suppressed plasma HIV RNA, a receiver operator characteristic curve identified that a DKK1 level of at least 735 pg/ml had a positive predictive value of 83.3% for a diagnosis of NCI. This association did not weaken after accounting for the effect of AIDS, nadir CD4+ T-cell count, addictive drug use, or demographic characteristics.Conclusion:DKK1 is a specific biomarker for NCI in HIV+ adults, implicating the Wnt pathway in HIV neuropathogenesis.

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