Methamphetamine and human immunodeficiency virus protein Tat synergize to destroy dopaminergic terminals in the rat striatum

S. Theodore, W. A. Cass, W. F. Maragos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Dysfunction of the dopaminergic system accompanied by loss of dopamine in the striatum is a major feature of human immunodeficiency virus-1-associated dementia. Previous studies have shown that human immunodeficiency virus-1-associated dementia patients with a history of drug abuse have rapid neurological progression, prominent psychomotor slowing, more severe encephalitis and more severe dendritic and neuronal damage in the frontal cortex compared with human immunodeficiency virus-1-associated dementia patients without a history of drug abuse. In a previous study, we showed that methamphetamine and human immunodeficiency virus-1 protein Tat interact to produce a synergistic decline in dopamine levels in the rat striatum. The present study was carried out to understand the underlying cause for the loss of dopamine. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were administered saline, methamphetamine, Tat or Tat followed by methamphetamine 24 h later. Two and seven days later the animals were killed and tissue sections from striatum were processed for silver staining to examine terminal degeneration while sections from striatum and substantia nigra were processed for tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity. Striatal tissue was also analyzed by Western blotting for tyrosine hydroxylase protein levels. Compared with controls, methamphetamine+Tat-treated animals showed extensive silver staining and loss of tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity and protein levels in the ipsilateral striatum. There was no apparent loss of tyrosine hydroxylase in the substantia nigra. Markers for oxidative stress were significantly increased in striatal synaptosomes from Tat+methamphetamine group compared with controls. The results indicate that methamphetamine and Tat interact to produce an enhanced injury to dopaminergic nerve terminals in the striatum with sparing of the substantia nigra by a mechanism involving oxidative stress. These findings suggest a possible mode of interaction between methamphetamine and human immunodeficiency virus-1 infection to produce enhanced dopaminergic neurotoxicity in human immunodeficiency virus-1 infected/methamphetamine-abusing patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)925-935
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants DA13144 to W.F.M. and AG17963 to W.A.C. The authors thank Dr. Avindra Nath (Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA) for generously providing Tat and Anita Fletcher-Turner for technical assistance.


  • Basal ganglia
  • HIV-1 associated dementia
  • Oxidative stress
  • Silver stain
  • Terminal degeneration
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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