Differential Mechanisms of Inflammation and Endothelial Dysfunction by HIV-1 Subtype-B and Recombinant CRF02_AG Tat Proteins on Human Brain Microvascular Endothelial Cells: Implications for Viral Neuropathogenesis

Biju Bhargavan, Georgette D. Kanmogne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


The recombinant HIV-1 CRF02_AG is prevalent in West-Central Africa but its effects on the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) are not known. We analyzed the effects of Tat from HIV-1 subtype-B (Tat.B) and CRF02_AG (Tat.AG) on primary human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMEC), the major BBB component. Exposure of HBMEC to Tat.B increased IL-6 expression and transcription by 9- (P < 0.001) and 113-fold (P < 0.001), respectively, whereas Tat.AG increased IL-6 expression and transcription by 2.7–3.8-fold and 35.7-fold (P < 0.001), respectively. Tat.B induced IL-6 through the interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase (IRAK)-1/4/mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase(MKK)/C-jun N-terminal kinase(JNK) pathways, in an activator protein-1(AP1)- and nuclear factor-kappaB (NFκB)-independent manner, whereas Tat.AG effects occurred via MKK/JNK/AP1/NFκB pathways. Tat-induced effects were associated with activation of c-jun (serine-63) and SAPK/JNK (Thr183/Tyr185). We demonstrated increased expression of transcription factors associated with these pathways (Jun, RELB, CEBPA), with higher levels in Tat.B-treated cells compared to Tat.AG. Functional studies showed that Tat.B and Tat.AG decreased the expression of tight junction proteins claudin-5 and ZO-1 and decreased the trans-endothelial electric resistance (TEER); Tat.B induced greater reduction in TEER, claudin-5, and ZO-1, compared to Tat.AG. Overall, our data showed increased inflammation and BBB dysfunction with Tat.B, compared to Tat.AG. This suggests these two HIV-1 subtypes differentially affect the BBB and central nervous system; our data provides novel insights into the molecular basis of these differential Tat-mediated effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1352-1363
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018



  • Blood-brain barrier
  • CRF02_AG
  • HIV-1 Tat subtypes
  • IL-6
  • JNK/NFκB signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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