Site-specific hyperphosphorylation of pRb in HIV-induced neurotoxicity

Mol Cell Neurosci. 2011 Jun;47(2):154-65. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2011.04.001. Epub 2011 Apr 12.


HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND) remains a serious complication of HIV infection, despite combined Anti-Retroviral Therapy (cART). Neuronal dysfunction and death are attributed to soluble factors released from activated and/or HIV-infected macrophages. Most of these factors affect the cell cycle machinery, determining cellular outcomes even in the absence of cell division. One of the earliest events in cell cycle activation is hyperphosphorylation of the retinoblastoma protein, pRb (ppRb). We and others have previously shown increased ppRb expression in the CNS of patients with HIV encephalitis (HIVE) and in neurons in an in vitro model of HIV-induced neurodegeneration. However, trophic factors also lead to an increase in neuronal ppRb with an absence of cell death, suggesting that, depending on the stimulus, hyperphosphorylation of pRb can have different outcomes on neuronal fate. pRb has multiple serines and threonines targeted for phosphorylation by distinct kinases, and we hypothesized that different stimuli may target separate sites for phosphorylation. Thus, to determine whether pRb is differentially phosphorylated in response to different stimuli and whether any of these sites is preferentially phosphorylated in association with HIV-induced neurotoxicity, we treated primary rat mixed cortical cultures with trophic factors, BDNF or RANTES, or with the neurotoxic factor, N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA), or with supernatants containing factors secreted by HIV-infected monocyte-derived macrophages (HIV-MDM), our in vitro model of HIV-induced neurodegeneration. We found that, while BDNF and RANTES phosphorylated serine807/811 and serine608 in vitro, treatment with HIV-MDM did not, even though these trophic factors are components of HIV-MDM. Rather, HIV-MDM targets a specific phosphorylation site, serine795, of pRb for phosphorylation in vitro and this ppRb isoform is also increased in HIV-infected brains in vivo. Further, overexpression of a nonphosphorylatable pRb (ppRb S795A) attenuated HIV-MDM-induced neurotoxicity. These findings indicate that HIV-infection in the brain is associated with site-specific hyperphosphorylation of pRb at serine795, which is not induced by other tested stimuli, and that this phosphorylation contributes to neuronal death in this disease, demonstrating that specific pRb sites are differentially targeted and may have diverse impacts on the viability of post-mitotic neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Dementia Complex / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemokine CCL5 / metabolism
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 5 / metabolism
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV-1 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroglia / cytology
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / metabolism*
  • Serine / metabolism


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Chemokine CCL5
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Serine
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 5