HIV-1 tat protein promotes neuronal dysfunction through disruption of microRNAs

J. Robert Chang, Ruma Mukerjee, Asen Bagashev, Luis Del Valle, Tinatin Chabrashvili, Brian J. Hawkins, Johnny J. He, Bassel E. Sawaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Over the last decade, small noncoding RNA molecules such as microRNAs (miRNAs) have emerged as critical regulators in the expression and function of eukaryotic genomes. It has been suggested that viral infections and neurological disease outcome may also be shaped by the influence of small RNAs. This has prompted us to suggest that HIV infection alters the endogenous miRNA expression patterns, thereby contributing to neuronal deregulation and AIDS dementia. Therefore, using primary cultures and neuronal cell lines, we examined the impact of a viral protein (HIV-1 Tat) on the expression of miRNAs due to its characteristic features such as release from the infected cells and taken up by noninfected cells. Using microRNA array assay, we demonstrated that Tat deregulates the levels of several miRNAs. Interestingly, miR-34a was among the most highly induced miRNAs in Tat-treated neurons. Tat also decreases the levels of miR-34a target genes such as CREB protein as shown by real time PCR. The effect of Tat was neutralized in the presence of anti-miR-34a. Using in situ hybridization assay, we found that the levels of miR-34a increase in Tat transgenic mice when compared with the parental mice. Therefore, we conclude that deregulation of neuronal functions by HIV-1 Tat protein is miRNA-dependent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41125-41134
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number47
StatePublished - 25 Nov 2011


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