Transactivator of transcription (Tat)-induced neuroinflammation as a key pathway in neuronal dysfunction: A scoping review


The activity of HIV-1 and its viral proteins within the central nervous system (CNS) is responsible for a wide array of neuropathological effects, resulting in a spectrum of neurocognitive deficits defined as HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). Amongst the various viral proteins, the transactivator of transcription (Tat) remains detectable even with effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) and suppressed viremia, highlighting the significance of this protein in the modern ART era. Tat has been extensively researched in both fundamental and clinical settings due to its role in neuroinflammation, neuronal damage, and neurocognitive impairment amongst people living with HIV (PLHIV). To date, numerous fundamental studies have explored Tat-induced neuroinflammation. However, there is no clear consensus on the most frequently studied inflammatory markers or the consistency in the levels of these Tat-induced inflammatory marker levels across different studies. Therefore, we conducted a scoping review of studies investigating Tat-induced neuroinflammation. We conducted searches in PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science databases using a search protocol tailored specifically to adhere to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses for scoping reviews (PRISMA-ScR) guidelines. From the 22 included studies, findings suggest that the HIV-1 Tat protein amplifies levels of neuroinflammatory markers. Amongst the vast array of inflammatory markers explored in the included studies, consistent results point to higher levels of CCL2, IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-Iñ in primary cells and cell lines exposed to or transfected with HIV-1 Tat. These markers are regulated by key inflammatory pathways, such as the extracellularAÿsignal-regulated kinase (ERK)1/2 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway, the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway, the p38 MAPK pathway, and nuclear factor-kB (NF-kB). Furthermore, Tat has been shown to induce neuronal apoptosis, both directly and indirectly. With regards to study designs, utilizing full-length Tat101 at concentrations ranging from 100 to 1000 ng/ml and durations of 24 and 48 h appears optimal for investigating Tat-induced neuroinflammation. In this context, we highlight specific inflammatory markers and pathways that are potentially pivotal in Tat-induced neuroinflammation and subsequent neuronal damage. A deeper investigation into these markers and pathways is crucial to better understand their roles in the development of HAND.


Muvenda T, Williams AA, Williams ME




  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
  • Mental Health
    • Neurocognitive disorders


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