In the era of combined antiretroviral therapy (cART), human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is now considered a chronic disease that specifically targets the brain and causes HIV-1-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). Endocannabinoids exhibit neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties in several central nervous system (CNS) disease models, but their effects in HAND are poorly understood. To address this issue, whole-cell recordings were performed on young (14-24 day old) C57BL/6J mice. We investigated the actions of the synthetic cannabinoid WIN55,212-2 (1 μM) and the endocannabinoid N-arachidonoyl ethanolamine (anandamide; AEA, 1 μM) in the presence of HIV-1 Tat on GABAergic neurotransmission in mouse prefrontal cortex (PFC) slices. We found a Tat concentration-dependent (5-50 nM) decrease in the frequency and amplitude of miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs). The cannabinoid 1 receptor (CB1R) antagonist rimonabant (1 μM) and zero extracellular calcium prevented the significant Tat-induced decrease in mIPSCs. Further, bath-applied WIN55,212-2 or AEA by itself, significantly decreased the frequency, but not amplitude of mIPSCs and/or spontaneous IPSCs (sIPSCs), and occluded a further downregulation of IPSCs by Tat. Pretreatment with rimonabant but not the CB2R antagonist AM630 (1 μM) prevented the WIN55,212-2- and AEA-induced decrease in IPSCs frequency without any further Tat effect. Results indicated a Tat-induced decrease in GABAergic neurotransmission, which was occluded by cannabinoids via a CB1R-related mechanism. Understanding the relationship between Tat toxicity and endocannabinoid signaling has the potential to identify novel therapeutic interventions to benefit individuals suffering from HAND and other cognitive impairments.
Keywords: Calcium; Cannabinoid; Cannabinoid 1 receptor; GABA neurotransmission; HIV-1 Tat; Prefrontal cortex.