HIV Glycoprotein Gp120 Impairs Fast Axonal Transport by Activating Tak1 Signaling Pathways

Sarah H. Berth, Nichole Mesnard-Hoaglin, Bin Wang, Hajwa Kim, Yuyu Song, Maria Sapar, Gerardo Morfini, Scott T. Brady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Sensory neuropathies are the most common neurological complication of HIV. Of these, distal sensory polyneuropathy (DSP) is directly caused by HIV infection and characterized by length-dependent axonal degeneration of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. Mechanisms for axonal degeneration in DSP remain unclear, but recent experiments revealed that the HIV glycoprotein gp120 is internalized and localized within axons of DRG neurons. Based on these findings, we investigated whether intra-axonal gp120 might impair fast axonal transport (FAT), a cellular process critical for appropriate maintenance of the axonal compartment. Significantly, we found that gp120 severely impaired both anterograde and retrograde FAT. Providing a mechanistic basis for these effects, pharmacological experiments revealed an involvement of various phosphotransferases in this toxic effect, including members of mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways (Tak-1, p38, and c-Jun N-terminal Kinase (JNK)), inhibitor of kappa-B-kinase 2 (IKK2), and PP1. Biochemical experiments and axonal outgrowth assays in cell lines and primary cultures extended these findings. Impairments in neurite outgrowth in DRG neurons by gp120 were rescued using a Tak-1 inhibitor, implicating a Tak-1 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway in gp120 neurotoxicity. Taken together, these observations indicate that kinase-based impairments in FAT represent a novel mechanism underlying gp120 neurotoxicity consistent with the dying-back degeneration seen in DSP. Targeting gp120-based impairments in FAT with specific kinase inhibitors might provide a novel therapeutic strategy to prevent axonal degeneration in DSP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASN Neuro
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • HIV
  • axonal transport
  • distal sensory polyneuropathy
  • gp120
  • kinesin
  • mitogen-activated protein kinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology


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