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Roles and functions of HIV-1 Tat protein in the CNS: an overview

Asen Bagashev12 and Bassel E Sawaya13*

Author Affiliations

1 Molecular Studies of Neurodegenerative Diseases Lab, The Fels Institute for Cancer Research & Molecular Biology, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA

2 Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA

3 Departments of Neurology, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA

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Virology Journal 2013, 10:358  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-10-358

Published: 21 December 2013


Nearly 50% of HIV-infected individuals suffer from some form of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). HIV-1 Tat (a key HIV transactivator of transcription) protein is one of the first HIV proteins to be expressed after infection occurs and is absolutely required for the initiation of the HIV genome transcription. In addition to its canonical functions, various studies have shown the deleterious role of HIV-1 Tat in the development and progression of HAND. Within the CNS, only specific cell types can support productive viral replication (astrocytes and microglia), however Tat protein can be released form infected cells to affects HIV non-permissive cells such as neurons. Therefore, in this review, we will summarize the functions of HIV-1 Tat proteins in neural cells and its ability to promote HAND.