Cocaine evokes a profile of oxidative stress and impacts innate antiviral response pathways in astrocytes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


HIV-1 and Zika virus (ZIKV) represent RNA viruses with neurotropic characteristics. Infected individuals suffer neurocognitive disorders aggravated by environmental toxins, including drugs of abuse such as cocaine, exacerbating HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders through a combination of astrogliosis, oxidative stress and innate immune signaling; however, little is known about how cocaine impacts the progression of ZIKV neural perturbations. Impaired innate immune signaling is characterized by weakened antiviral activation of interferon signaling and alterations in inflammatory signaling, factors contributing to cognitive sequela associated with cocaine in HIV-1/ZIKV infection. We employed cellular/molecular biology techniques to test if cocaine suppresses the efficacy of astrocytes to initiate a Type 1 interferon response to HIV-1/ZIKV, in vitro. We found cocaine activated antiviral signaling pathways and type I interferon in the absence of inflammation. Cocaine pre-exposure suppressed antiviral responses to HIV-1/ZIKV, triggering antiviral signaling and phosphorylation of interferon regulatory transcription factor 3 to stimulate type I interferon gene transcription. Our data indicate that oxidative stress is a major driver of cocaine-mediated astrocyte antiviral immune responses. Although astrocyte antiviral signaling is activated following detection of foreign pathogenic material, oxidative stress and increased cytosolic double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) can drive antiviral signaling via stimulation of pattern recognition receptors. Pretreatment with the glial modulators propentofylline (PPF) or pioglitazone (PIO) reversed cocaine-mediated attenuation of astrocyte responses to HIV-1/ZIKV. Both PPF/PIO protected against cocaine-mediated generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), increased dsDNA, antiviral signaling pathways and increased type I interferon, indicating that cocaine induces astrocyte type I interferon signaling in the absence of virus and oxidative stress is a major driver of cocaine-mediated astrocyte antiviral immunity. Lastly, PPF and PIO have therapeutic potential to ameliorate cocaine-mediated dysregulation of astrocyte antiviral immunity possibly via a myriad of protective actions including decreases in reactive phenotype and damaging immune factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-443
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018



  • Astrocytes
  • Cocaine
  • HIV-1
  • Oxidative stress
  • Type I interferon
  • Zika virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Cite this