HIV-Tat and Cocaine Impact Brain Energy Metabolism: Redox Modification and Mitochondrial Biogenesis Influence NRF Transcription-Mediated Neurodegeneration. Academic Article uri icon


  • HIV infection and drugs of abuse induce oxidative stress and redox imbalance, which cause neurodegeneration. The mechanisms by which HIV infection and cocaine consumption affect astrocyte energy metabolism, and how this leads to neurodegenerative dysfunction, remain poorly understood. Presently, we investigated how oxidative injury causes the depletion of energy resources and glutathione synthetase (GSS), which in turn activates5' AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), glycolytic enzymes, and mitochondrial biogenesis, finally resulting innuclear factor erythroid (NRF) transcription in astrocytes. Both human primary astrocytes incubated with HIV-1 Tat protein in vitro and HIV-inducible Tat (iTat) mice exposed to cocaine showed decreased levels of GSS and increased superoxide dismutase (SOD) levels. These changes, in turn, significantly activated AMPK and raised the concentrations of several glycolytic enzymes, along with oxidative phosphorylation, the mitochondrial biogenesis of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor- coactivator (PGC-1) and mitochondrial transcription factor (TFAM), and Nrf1 and Nrf2 gene transcription and protein expression. Moreover, neurons exposed to HIV-1Tat/cocaine-conditioned media showed reductions in dendritic formation, spine density, and neuroplasticity compared with control neurons. These results suggest that redox inhibition of GSS altered AMPK activation and mitochondrial biogenesis to influence Nrf transcription. These processes are important components of the astrocyte signaling network regulating brain energy metabolism in HIV-positive cocaine users. In conclusion, HIV-1 Tat alters redox inhibition, thus increasing glycolytic metabolic profiles and mitochondrial biogenesis, leading to Nrf transcription, and ultimately impacting astrocyte energy resource and metabolism. Cocaine exacerbated these effects, leading to a worsening of neurodegeneration.

published proceedings

  • Mol Neurobiol

altmetric score

  • 1.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Sivalingam, K., Cirino, T. J., McLaughlin, J. P., & Samikkannu, T.

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

  • Sivalingam, Kalaiselvi||Cirino, Thomas J||McLaughlin, Jay P||Samikkannu, Thangavel

publication date

  • January 2021