Glutamine antagonist JHU083 improves psychosocial behavior and sleep deficits in EcoHIV-infected mice

Benjamin J. Bell, Kristen R. Hollinger, Pragney Deme, Shinji Sakamoto, Yuto Hasegawa, David Volsky, Atsushi Kamiya, Norman Haughey, Xiaolei Zhu, Barbara S. Slusher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Combined antiretroviral therapy ushered an era of survivable HIV infection in which people living with HIV (PLH) conduct normal life activities and enjoy measurably extended lifespans. However, despite viral control, PLH often experience a variety of cognitive, emotional, and physical phenotypes that diminish their quality of life, including cognitive impairment, depression, and sleep disruption. Recently, accumulating evidence has linked persistent CNS immune activation to the overproduction of glutamate and upregulation of glutaminase (GLS) activity, particularly in microglial cells, driving glutamatergic imbalance with neurological consequences. Our lab has developed a brain-penetrant prodrug of the glutamine antagonist 6-diazo-5-oxo-L-norleucine (DON), JHU083, that potently inhibits brain GLS activity in mice following oral administration. To assess the therapeutic potential of JHU083, we infected mice with EcoHIV and characterized their neurobehavioral phenotypes. EcoHIV-infected mice exhibited decreased social interaction, suppressed sucrose preference, disrupted sleep during the early rest period, and increased sleep fragmentation, similar to what has been reported in PLH but not yet observed in murine models. At doses shown to inhibit microglial GLS, JHU083 treatment ameliorated all of the abnormal neurobehavioral phenotypes. To explore potential mechanisms underlying this effect, hippocampal microglia were isolated for RNA sequencing. The dysregulated genes and pathways in EcoHIV-infected hippocampal microglia pointed to disruptions in immune functions of these cells, which were partially restored by JHU083 treatment. These findings suggest that upregulation of microglial GLS may affect immune functions of these cells. Thus, brain-penetrable GLS inhibitors like JHU083 could act as a potential therapeutic modality for both glutamate excitotoxicity and aberrant immune activation in microglia in chronic HIV infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100478
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity - Health
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • EcoHIV-infected mice
  • Glutamine antagonist
  • Microglial immune genes
  • Psychosocial deficits
  • Sleep deficits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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