Increased density of neurons containing NADPH diaphorase and nitric oxide synthase in the cerebral cortex of patients with HIV-1 infection and drug abuse

J NeuroAIDS. 2002;2(3):19-36. doi: 10.1300/j128v02n03_02.


To determine whether nitrogen monoxide (nitric oxide; NO) synthase (NOS) and NADPH diaphorase (NDP) co-containing cerebrocortical neurons (NOSN) neurons are affected in patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) with and without associated intake of drugs of abuse, we examined the temporal neocortex of 24 individuals: 12 HIV-1 positive (including 3 drug users, 9 non-drug users) and 12 HIV-1 negative (including 6 drug users, and 6 non-drug users). Histochemical labeling for NDP-an enzymatic domain co-expressed in the NOS enzyme-was employed to visualize NOSN. Drug abuse and HIV-1 infection cause independently an increase in NOSN density, but combined they result in up to a 38-fold increase in NOSN density, suggesting that the combination of these factors induces NOS expression powerfully in neurons that normally do not synthesize NDP/NOS. This is associated with an increase in the proportion of NOSN displaying dystrophic changes, indicating that NOSN undergo massive degeneration in association with NOS synthesis induction. The increase in density of NOSN in HIV-1 infected drug abusers may be among the important sources of NO mediating cerebrocortical dysfunction, and the degeneration of NOS-containing local circuit neurons in patients with HIV-1 infection or drug abuse may underlie in part their neuropsychiatric manifestations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Dementia Complex / complications
  • AIDS Dementia Complex / metabolism
  • AIDS Dementia Complex / pathology*
  • Adult
  • Atrophy
  • Cell Count
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Female
  • HIV-1*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase / metabolism*
  • Neurons / enzymology
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism
  • Substance-Related Disorders / pathology*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase