Recombinant nef HIV-IIIB protein is toxic to human neurons in culture

G. Trillo-Pazos, E. McFarlane-Abdulla, Iain C. Campbell, Geoff Pilkington, I. Everall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The expression of HIV-1 negative factor (nef) has been positively correlated with HIV disease progression [Z. Hanna, D.G. Kay, N. Rebai, A. Guimond, S. Jothy, P. Jocicoeur, Nef harbors a makor determinant of pathogenicity for an AIDS-like disease induced by HIV-1 in transgenic mice. Cell 95 (1998) 163–175]. Nef expression has been detected in HIV infected human brains with neuronal damage [A. Ranki, M. Nyberg, V. Ovod, M. Haltia, I. Elovaara, R. Raininko, H. Haapsalo, K. Krohn, Abundant expression of HIV Nef and Rev proteins in brain astrocytes in associated with dementia, AIDS 9(9) (1995) 1001–1008; Y. Saito, L.R. Sharer, M.G. Epstein, J. Michaels, M. Mintz, M. Londer, K. Golding, B.M. Blumberg, Overexpression of nef as a marker for restricted HIV-1 infection of astrocytes in postmorten paediatric central tissues, Neurology 14 (1994) 474–480]. It is postulated that nef may contribute to the neuronal damage observed in the brain of those with late HIV disease. To test this, the potential toxicity of recombinant nef (from HIV-1 IIIB) was compared to the neurotoxin human tumour necrosis alpha (TNFα) on human brain cells in culture. SK-N-SH neuroblastoma, primary human neurons and glial cells were exposed to recombinant nef or TNFα protein for 3 days or twice over 6 days. Cell viability was assessed by Trypan Blue, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release and MTT assays. Nuclear fragmentation was detected using the Hoechst Blue nuclear dye assay. Both nef and TNFα (100 ng/ml) caused a significant 30% reduction of SK-N-SH cell numbers after 3 days exposure (P=0.001). At this time, exposure to nef caused evident fragmented nuclei in these cultures. Human neuronal cultures had a 32 and 33% decrease in cell number after 6 days exposure to either nef or TNFα, respectively (P
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-326
Number of pages12
JournalBrain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2000


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