Gp120 in the pathogenesis of human immunodeficiency virus–associated pain

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Abstract

Objective:

Chronic pain is a common neurological comorbidity of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 infection, but the etiological cause remains elusive. The objective of this study was to identify the HIV-1 causal factor that critically contributes to the pathogenesis of HIV-associated pain.

Methods:

We first compared the levels of HIV-1 proteins in postmortem tissues of the spinal cord dorsal horn (SDH) from HIV-1/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome patients who developed chronic pain (pain-positive HIV-1 patients) and HIV-1 patients who did not develop chronic pain (pain-negative HIV-1 patients). Then we used the HIV-1 protein that was specifically increased in the pain-positive patients to generate mouse models. Finally, we performed comparative analyses on the pathological changes in the models and the HIV-1 patients.

Results:

We found that HIV-1 gp120 was significantly higher in pain-positive HIV-1 patients (vs pain-negative HIV-1 patients). This finding suggested that gp120 was a potential causal factor of the HIV-associated pain. To test this hypothesis, we used a mouse model generated by intrathecal injection of gp120 and compared the pathologies of the model and the pain-positive human HIV-1 patients. The results showed that the mouse model and pain-positive human HIV-1 patients developed extensive similarities in their pathological phenotypes, including pain behaviors, peripheral neuropathy, glial reactivation, synapse degeneration, and aberrant activation of pain-related signaling pathways in the SDH.

Interpretation:

Our findings suggest that gp120 may critically contribute to the pathogenesis of HIV-associated pain. Ann Neurol 2014;75:837–850

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