HIV encephalopathy covers a range of HIV-1-related brain dysfunction. In the Central Nervous System (CNS), it is largely impervious to Highly Active AntiRetroviral Therapy (HAART). As survival with chronic HIV-1 infection improves, the number of people harboring the virus in their CNS increases. Neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory changes may continue despite the use of HAART. Neurons themselves are rarely infected by HIV-1, but HIV-1 infects resident microglia, periventricular macrophages, leading to increased production of cytokines and to release of HIV-1 proteins, the most likely neurotoxins, among which are the envelope glycoprotein gp120 and HIV-1 trans
-acting protein Tat. Gp120 and Tat induce oxidative stress in the brain, leading to neuronal apoptosis/death. We review here the role of oxidative stress in animal models of HIV-1 Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND) and in patients with HAND. Different therapeutic approaches, including clinical trials, have been used to mitigate oxidative stress in HAND. We used SV40 vectors for gene delivery of antioxidant enzymes, Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1), or glutathione peroxidase (GPx1) into the rat caudate putamen (CP). Intracerebral injection of SV (SOD1) or SV (GPx1) protects neurons from apoptosis caused by subsequent inoculation of gp120 and Tat at the same location. Vector administration into the lateral ventricle or cisterna magna protects from intra-CP gp120-induced neurotoxicity comparably to intra-CP vector administration. These models should provide a better understanding of the pathogenesis of HIV-1 in the brain as well as offer new therapeutic avenues.
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