PrPC, the cellular isoform of the human prion protein, is a novel biomarker of HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment and mediates neuroinflammation

Toni K. Roberts, Eliseo Eugenin, Susan Morgello, Janice E. Clements, M. Christine Zink, Joan W. Berman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations


Of the 33 million people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) worldwide, 40-60% of individuals will eventually develop neurocognitive sequelae that can be attributed to the presence of HIV-1 in the central nervous system (CNS) and its associated neuroinflammation despite antiretroviral therapy. PrPC (protease resistant protein, cellular isoform) is the nonpathological cellular isoform of the human prion protein that participates in many physiological processes that are disrupted during HIV-1 infection. However, its role in HIV-1 CNS disease is unknown. We demonstrate that PrP C is significantly increased in both the CNS of HIV-1-infected individuals with neurocognitive impairment and in SIV-infected macaques with encephalitis. PrPC is released into the cerebrospinal fluid, and its levels correlate with CNS compromise, suggesting it is a biomarker of HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment. We show that the chemokine (c-c Motif) Ligand-2 (CCL2) increases PrPC release from CNS cells , while HIV-1 infection alters PrPC release from peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Soluble PrPC mediates neuroinflammation by inducing astrocyte production of both CCL2 and interleukin 6. This report presents the first evidence that PrPC dysregulation occurs in cognitively impaired HIV-1-infected individuals and that PrPC participates in the pathogenesis of HIV-1-associated CNS disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1848-1860
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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