Human immunodeficiency virus-encoded Tat activates glycogen synthase kinase-3β to antagonize nuclear factor-κB survival pathway in neurons

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The pathogenesis of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-associated dementia is mediated by neuronal dysfunction and death, brought about by the action of soluble neurotoxic factors that are released by virally infected macrophages and microglia. Paradoxically, many candidate HIV-1 neurotoxins also possess the ability to activate nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB), which has a potent pro-survival effect in primary neurons. The present study explored this conundrum and investigated why NF-κB might fail to protect neurons that are exposed to candidate HIV-1 neurotoxins. Here, we evaluated the ability of virus-depleted conditioned medium produced by HIV-1-infected human macrophages (HIV-MCMs) to modulate NF-κB activity in neurons. We demonstrated that HIV-MCMs inhibit the normal signaling pathways that lead to NF-κB activation in neurons. This inhibitory effect of HIV-MCM is dependent upon the presence of HIV-1 Tat, which activates glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3β in neurons. Activation of GSK-3β, in turn, results in modification of the NF-κB subunit RelA at serine 468, thereby regulating the physical interaction of RelA with histone deacetylase-3 corepressor molecules. Furthermore, neutralization of Tat or inhibition of GSK-3β activity prevents neuronal apoptosis induced by HIV-MCM. We conclude that HIV-1 Tat may compromise neuronal function and fate by interfering with normal survival pathways subserved by NF-κB. These findings may have important therapeutic implications for the management of HIV-1-associated dementia.

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