Document Type


Publication Date

July 2006


This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Gene Therapy 13(23):1645-1656, December 2006. The published version is available at; copyright (c) 2006 by Nature Publishing Group [published online on July 27, 2006]


Human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) infection in the central nervous system (CNS) may lead to neuronal loss and progressively deteriorating CNS function: HIV-1 gene products, especially gp120, induce free radical-mediated apoptosis. Reactive oxygen species (ROS), are among the potential mediators of these effects. Neurons readily form ROS after gp120 exposure, and so might be protected from ROS-mediated injury by antioxidant enzymes such as Cu/Zn-superoxide dismutase (SOD1) and/or glutathione peroxidase (GPx1). Both enzymes detoxify oxygen free radicals. Because they are highly efficient gene delivery vehicles for neurons, recombinant SV40-derived vectors were used for these studies. Cultured mature neurons derived from NT2 cells and primary fetal neurons were transduced with rSV40 vectors carrying human SOD1 and/or GPx1 cDNAs, then exposed to gp120. Apoptosis was measured by TUNEL assay. Transduction efficiency of both neuron populations was >95%, as assayed by immunostaining. Transgene expression was also ascertained by Western blotting and direct assays of enzyme activity. Gp120 induced apoptosis in a high percentage of unprotected NT2-N. Transduction with SV(SOD1) and SV(GPx1) before gp120 challenge reduced neuronal apoptosis by >90%. Even greater protection was seen in cells treated with both vectors in sequence. Given singly or in combination, they protect neuronal cells from HIV-1-gp120 induced apoptosis. We tested whether rSV40s can deliver antioxidant enzymes to the CNS in vivo: intracerebral injection of SV(SOD1) or SV(GPx1) into the caudate putamen of rat brain yielded excellent transgene expression in neurons. In vivo transduction using SV(SOD1) also protected neurons from subsequent gp120-induced apoptosis after injection of both into the caudate putamen of rat brain. Thus, SOD1 and GPx1 can be delivered by SV40 vectors in vitro or in vivo. This approach may merit consideration for therapies in HIV-1 induced encephalopathy.