Excitatory effects of human immunodeficiency virus 1 Tat on cultured rat cerebral cortical neurons

Neuroscience. 2008 Feb 6;151(3):701-10. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.11.031. Epub 2007 Dec 5.


Human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) Tat protein is one of the neurotoxins involved in the pathogenesis of HIV-1-associated neuronal disorders. Combined electrophysiological and optical imaging experiments were undertaken to investigate whether HIV-1 Tat30-86, herein referred to as Tat30-86, acted directly or indirectly via the release of glutamate or both and to test its effect on the properties of spontaneous quantal events in cultured cortical neurons. Whole-cell patch recordings were made from cultured rat cortical neurons in either current- or voltage-clamp mode. Tat30-86 (50-1000 nM) induced in a population of cortical neurons a long-lasting depolarization, which was accompanied by a decrease of membrane resistance and persisted in a Krebs solution containing tetrodotoxin (TTX, 0.5 microM). Depolarizations were slightly reduced by pretreatment with glutamate receptor antagonists 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX) (10 microM) and d-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid (AP-5) (50 microM), and were markedly reduced in a Ca(2+)-free Krebs solution; the differences were statistically significant. Tat30-86-induced inward currents had a reversal potential between -30 and 0 mV. While not causing a noticeable depolarization, lower concentrations of Tat30-86 (10 nM) increased membrane excitability, as indicated by increased numbers of neuronal discharge in response to a step depolarizing pulse. Tat30-86 (10 nM) increased the frequency of spontaneous miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs), while not significantly affecting their amplitude. Tat30-86 (10 nM) moderately increased the frequency as well as the amplitude of spontaneous miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs). Ratiometric Ca(2+) imaging studies showed that Tat30-86 produced three types of Ca(2+) responses: 1) a fast and transitory increase, 2) Ca(2+) oscillations, and 3) a fast increase followed by a plateau; the glutamate receptor antagonists eliminated the late component of Ca(2+) response. The result suggests that Tat30-86 is an active fragment and that it excites cortical neurons directly and indirectly via releasing glutamate from adjacent neurons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Bicuculline / pharmacology
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Thiobarbiturates / metabolism
  • tat Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / pharmacology*


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • GABA Antagonists
  • Thiobarbiturates
  • bis(1,3-dihexyl-2-thiobarbiturate)trimethineoxonol
  • tat Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • Calcium
  • Bicuculline