Gene expression in TUNEL-positive neurons in human immunodeficiency virus-infected brain

J Neurovirol. 2004:10 Suppl 1:102-7. doi: 10.1080/753312760.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection of the central nervous system (CNS) results in neuronal damage and apoptosis, and both in vitro models and pathological studies suggest that a variety of neurotoxins released by HIV-infected and -activated macrophages/microglia selectively damage susceptible subsets of neurons. Confirmation of in vitro findings of mechanisms of neurodegeneration and neuronal cell dysfunction in vivo has been approached through detailed pathological analysis of regional structural damage, immunohistochemical detection of selected antigens in damaged cells, and, more recently, analysis of gene expression in whole tissue blocks or pooled populations (hundreds/thousands) of microdissected cells. Recently developed techniques of gene expression analysis through antisense mRNA amplification (aRNA) at the single-cell level may offer the potential to study pathways of neuronal cell death and to determine patterns of coordinated gene expression that may more specifically identify susceptible neuronal subclasses in vivo. Utilizing this unique technique, the authors have demonstrated, for the first time, RNA amplification and gene expression profiling in individual deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL)-reactive neurons microdissected from fixed, archival human brain tissue. RNA amplification was successful in >80% of TUNEL-positive neurons, and quantitative aRNA/cDNA hybridization slot-blot analysis demonstrated similar levels of actin RNA but significant differences in caspase-2 RNA expression between TUNEL-reactive and -nonreactive neurons. Reliable quantitative comparisons were achieved with modest numbers of sampled neurons (approximately 10). These studies suggest that analysis of coordinated gene expression in individual damaged neurons in vivo can be reliably used to identify neuronal subclasses that express certain susceptibility- or survival-promoting genes that may be targeted for more specific neuroprotective strategies against HIV.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Dementia Complex / pathology*
  • AIDS Dementia Complex / physiopathology
  • Apoptosis
  • Basal Ganglia / pathology*
  • Basal Ganglia / virology
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / virology*