HIV-1 and morphine regulation of autophagy in microglia: Limited interactions in the context of HIV-1 infection and opioid abuse Article

cited authors

  • El-Hage, N; Rodriguez, M; Dever, SM; Masvekar, RR; Gewirtz, DA; Shacka, JJ

fiu authors


  • Microglia are the predominant resident central nervous system (CNS) cell type productively infected by HIV-1, and play a key role in the progression of HIV-associated dementia (HAD). Moreover, neural dysfunction and progression to HAD are accelerated in opiate drug abusers. In the present study, we examined the role of the autophagy pathway in the neuropathogenesis of HIV-1 using primary human microglial cells and determined whether opiates converge at this point. Infection of microglia with the HIV-1SF162 macrophage-tropic strain resulted in increased Beclin1 expression, accompanied by an increase of LC3 protein levels and accumulation of LC3 reporter RFP+ GFP+ (yellow) puncta, suggesting that HIV-1 infection triggers autophagosome formation without promoting protein degradation by the lysosome. Conversely, coexposure with HIV-1 and morphine significantly decreased virus-induced Beclin1 expression and autophagosome formation. Exploration of the possible mechanism(s) used by morphine to disrupt the autophagic process unveiled a significant increase in intracellular pH, which coincided with a reduction in the formation of acidic vesicular organelles and in autophagolysosome formation. Small interfering RNA targeting BECN1, a gene critical for autophagosome formation, significantly reduced viral replication and the virus-induced inflammatory responses. Conversely, morphine-enhanced viral replication and inflammatory responses were not affected by gene silencing with siBeclin1, suggesting that the interactive effect of morphine in HIV-1 pathogenesis is mediated through a Beclin1-independent mechanism. These novel findings may have important implications on the connections between autophagy and HIV-1 pathogenesis mediated by microglial cells in opioid-abusing individuals.

publication date

  • January 1, 2015

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 1024

end page

  • 1035


  • 89


  • 2