Identification of a binding site of the human immunodeficiency virus envelope protein gp120 to neuronal specific tubulin

Valeria Avdoshina, Francesca Taraballi, Simona Dedoni, Claudia Corbo, Mikell Paige, Yasemin Saygideğer Kont, Aykut Üren, Ennio Tasciotti, Italo Mocchetti

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20 Scopus citations


Human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV) promotes synaptic simplification and neuronal apoptosis, and causes neurological impairments termed HIV-associated neurological disorders (HAND). HIV-associated neurotoxicity may be brought about by acute and chronic mechanisms that still remain to be fully characterized. The HIV envelope glycoprotein gp120 causes neuronal degeneration similar to that observed in HAND subjects. The present study was undertaken to discover novel mechanisms of gp120 neurotoxicity that could explain how the envelope protein promotes neurite pruning. Gp120 has been shown to associate with various intracellular organelles as well as microtubules in neurons. We then analyzed lysates of neurons exposed to gp120 with liquid chromatography mass spectrometry for potential protein interactors. We found that one of the proteins interacting with gp120 is tubulin β-3 (TUBB3), a major component of neuronal microtubules. We then tested the hypothesis that gp120 binds to neuronal microtubules. Using surface plasmon resonance we confirmed that gp120 binds with high affinity to neuronal specific TUBB3. We have also identified the binding site of gp120 to TUBB3. We then designed a small peptide (Helix-A) that displaced gp120 from binding to TUBB3. To determine whether this peptide could prevent gp120-mediated neurotoxicity, we crosslinked Helix-A to mesoporous silica nanoparticles (Helix-A nano) to enhance the intracellular delivery of the peptide. We then tested the neuroprotective property of Helix-A nano against three strains of gp120 in rat cortical neurons. Helix-A nano prevented gp120-mediated neurite simplification as well as neuronal loss. These data propose that gp120 binding to TUBB3 could be another mechanism of gp120 neurotoxicity. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-298
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
StatePublished - Mar 15 2016


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