Damage and repair of DNA in HIV encephalitis

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2000 Nov;59(11):955-65. doi: 10.1093/jnen/59.11.955.


Neuronal damage and dementia are common sequelae of HIV encephalitis. The mechanism by which HIV infection of CNS macrophages results in neuronal damage is not known. We examined the brains from 15 AIDS autopsies (8 with HIV encephalitis and 7 without) and 4 non-infected control autopsies for the presence of DNA strand breaks, for associated changes in the expression of the DNA repair enzymes KU80 and Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), and for accumulation of amyloid precursor protein (APP). Abundant DNA damage was observed with terminal transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling (TUNEL), however, there was no morphologic evidence of significant neuroglial apoptosis. The DNA repair enzyme KU80 was immunocytochemically detectable in neuronal and glial cells in autopsy brains from patients with and without HIV encephalitis; however, in cases with HIV encephalitis the staining was more prominent than in the infected or non-infected controls without encephalitis. There was no difference in KU80 immunostaining in oligodendroglia from autopsies with and without encephalitis. Immunostaining for PARP was more intense in gray and white matter of cases with HIV encephalitis. No clear spatial relationship existed between expression of DNA repair enzymes and the spatial proximity of microglial nodules or HIV-infected macrophages. The cytoplasm of cortical and subcortical neurons immunostained for APP Stronger cortical neuronal APP staining was observed in cases without HIV encephalitis. Staining of deep gray matter neurons was similar, irrespective of the presence or absence of encephalitis. While foci of intense APP staining were noted in white matter not related to HIV infection, they were associated with foci of opportunistic infections (e.g. due to CMV or PML). We conclude that damaged DNA and altered patterns of expression of DNA repair proteins and APP are common findings in the brains of AIDS patients at autopsy, but do not have a spatial relationship to HIV-infected macrophages.

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Dementia Complex / genetics*
  • AIDS Dementia Complex / metabolism
  • AIDS Dementia Complex / pathology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / genetics
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / analysis*
  • DNA Damage / physiology*
  • DNA Repair / physiology*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / analysis*
  • RNA, Viral / analysis


  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor
  • RNA, Viral
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases