CCR5 antagonist reduces HIV-induced amyloidogenesis, tau pathology, neurodegeneration, and blood-brain barrier alterations in HIV-infected hu-PBL-NSG mice

Mol Neurodegener. 2021 Nov 22;16(1):78. doi: 10.1186/s13024-021-00500-0.


Background: Neurocognitive impairment is present in 50% of HIV-infected individuals and is often associated with Alzheimer's Disease (AD)-like brain pathologies, including increased amyloid-beta (Aβ) and Tau hyperphosphorylation. Here, we aimed to determine whether HIV-1 infection causes AD-like pathologies in an HIV/AIDS humanized mouse model, and whether the CCR5 antagonist maraviroc alters HIV-induced pathologies.

Methods: NOD/scid-IL-2Rγcnull mice engrafted with human blood leukocytes were infected with HIV-1, left untreated or treated with maraviroc (120 mg/kg twice/day). Human cells in animal's blood were quantified weekly by flow cytometry. Animals were sacrificed at week-3 post-infection; blood and tissues viral loads were quantified using p24 antigen ELISA, RNAscope, and qPCR. Human (HLA-DR+) cells, Aβ-42, phospho-Tau, neuronal markers (MAP 2, NeuN, neurofilament-L), gamma-secretase activating protein (GSAP), and blood-brain barrier (BBB) tight junction (TJ) proteins expression and transcription were quantified in brain tissues by immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, immunoblotting, and qPCR. Plasma Aβ-42, Aβ-42 cellular uptake, release and transendothelial transport were quantified by ELISA.

Results: HIV-1 significantly decreased human (h)CD4+ T-cells and hCD4/hCD8 ratios; decreased the expression of BBB TJ proteins claudin-5, ZO-1, ZO-2; and increased HLA-DR+ cells in brain tissues. Significantly, HIV-infected animals showed increased plasma and brain Aβ-42 and phospho-Tau (threonine181, threonine231, serine396, serine199), associated with transcriptional upregulation of GSAP, an enzyme that catalyzes Aβ formation, and loss of MAP 2, NeuN, and neurofilament-L. Maraviroc treatment significantly reduced blood and brain viral loads, prevented HIV-induced loss of neuronal markers and TJ proteins; decreased HLA-DR+ cells infiltration in brain tissues, significantly reduced HIV-induced increase in Aβ-42, GSAP, and phospho-Tau. Maraviroc also reduced Aβ retention and increased Aβ release in human macrophages; decreased the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) and increased low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein-1 (LRP1) expression in human brain endothelial cells. Maraviroc induced Aβ transendothelial transport, which was blocked by LRP1 antagonist but not RAGE antagonist.

Conclusions: Maraviroc significantly reduced HIV-induced amyloidogenesis, GSAP, phospho-Tau, neurodegeneration, BBB alterations, and leukocytes infiltration into the CNS. Maraviroc increased cellular Aβ efflux and transendothelial Aβ transport via LRP1 pathways. Thus, therapeutically targeting CCR5 could reduce viremia, preserve the BBB and neurons, increased brain Aβ efflux, and reduce AD-like neuropathologies.

Keywords: Amyloid-beta; Blood-brain barrier injury; CCR5; HIV-1; Human brain microvascular endothelial cells; LRP1; Maraviroc; Monocytes-derived macrophages; NSG mice; Neuronal damage; RAGE; Tau phosphorylation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier* / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Receptor for Advanced Glycation End Products / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Receptor for Advanced Glycation End Products