HIV–1 Antigens in Neurons of Cocaine-Abusing Patients

Milan Fiala*, 1, Elyse J Singer2, Deborah Commins2, Tamara Mirzapoiazova3, Alexander Verin4, Araceli Espinosa5, Kenneth Ugen6, Michael Bernas7, Marlys Witte7, Martin Weinand7, Albert S Lossinsky8, 9
1 Departments of Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California, USA
2 Department of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California, USA
3 University of Chicago, Department of Medicine, Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, USA
4 Medical College of Georgia, Vascular Biology Center, Augusta, Georgia, USA
5 Department of Neurobiology, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, USA
6 Department of Molecular Medicine and Center for Molecular Delivery, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida, USA
7 Department of Surgery, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA
8 Laboratory of Cell Culture, Neuroanatomy and Experimental Neuropathology, New Jersey Neuroscience Institute and JFK Medical Center, Edison, New Jersey, USA
9 New York State Office of Mental Retardation, Department of Pathological Neurobiology, New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, Staten Island, New York, USA

© Fiala et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Orthopaedic Hospital Research Center, 615 Charles E. Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095-735 8, USA; Tel: 310 206-6392; Fax: 310 825-5409; E-mail:


Cocaine opens the blood-brain barrier by deregulating transcription of target genes. Here we show that cocaine at blood concentrations in drug abusers disrupts endothelial cell junctions in parallel with signaling by phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase, myristoylated alanine-rich C kinase and myosin light chain. Cocaine effects may be important in vivo since the neurons of drug abusing patients with HIV-1 associated dementia displayed gp120, p24 and Nef.

Keywords: Blood-brain barrier, cocaine, intercellular junctions, Extracellular signal-regulated kinase, HIV-1, HIV-1-associated dementia..