Adenosine triphosphate released from HIV-infected macrophages regulates glutamatergic tone and dendritic spine density on neurons

Luis B. Tovar-Y-Romo, Dennis L. Kolson, Veera Venkata Ratnam Bandaru, Julia L. Drewes, David R. Graham, Norman J. Haughey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite wide spread use of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) in developed countries, approximately half of HIV-infected patients will develop impairments in cognitive function. Accumulating evidence suggests that neuronal dysfunction can be precipitated by HIV-infection of macrophages by mechanisms that involve alterations in innate and adaptive immune responses. HIV-infection of macrophages is known to increase the release of soluble neurotoxins. However, the composition of products released from infected macrophages is complex and not fully known. In this study we provide evidence that ATP and other immuno-/neuromodulatory nucleotides are exported from HIV-infected macrophages and modify neuronal structure. Supernatants collected from HIV-infected macrophages (HIV/MDM) contained large amounts of ATP, ADP, AMP and small amounts of adenosine, in addition to glutamate. Dilutions of these supernatants that were sub-threshold for glutamate receptor activation evoked rapid calcium flux in neurons that were completely inhibited by the enzymatic degradation of ATP, or by blockade of calcium permeable purinergic receptors. Applications of these highly diluted HIV/MDM onto neuronal cultures increased the amount of extracellular glutamate by mechanisms dependent on purinergic receptor activation, and downregulated spine density on neurons by mechanisms dependent on purinergic and glutamate receptor activation. We conclude from these data that ATP released from HIV-infected macrophages downregulates dendritic spine density on neurons by a mechanism that involves purinergic receptor mediated modulation of glutamatergic tone. These data suggest that neuronal function may be depressed in HIV infected individuals by mechanisms that involve macrophage release of ATP that triggers secondary effects on glutamate handling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)998-1009
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • ATP
  • Adenine nucleotides
  • Calcium
  • Excitotoxicity
  • Glutamate
  • HIV
  • HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders
  • NMDA
  • P2X
  • Purinergic receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology

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