Specific amino acids in HIV-1 Vpr are significantly associated with differences in patient neurocognitive status

Will Dampier, Gregory C. Antell, Benjamas Aiamkitsumrit, Michael R. Nonnemacher, Jeffrey M. Jacobson, Vanessa Pirrone, Wen Zhong, Katherine Kercher, Shendra Passic, Jean W. Williams, Tony James, Kathryn N. Devlin, Tania Giovannetti, David J. Libon, Zsofia Szep, Garth D. Ehrlich, Brian Wigdahl, Fred C. Krebs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Even in the era of combination antiretroviral therapies used to combat human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection, up to 50 % of well-suppressed HIV-1-infected patients are still diagnosed with mild neurological deficits referred to as HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). The multifactorial nature of HAND likely involves the HIV-1 accessory protein viral protein R (Vpr) as an agent of neuropathogenesis. To investigate the effect of naturally occurring variations in Vpr on HAND in well-suppressed HIV-1-infected patients, bioinformatic analyses were used to correlate peripheral blood-derived Vpr sequences with patient neurocognitive performance, as measured by comprehensive neuropsychological assessment and the resulting Global Deficit Score (GDS). Our studies revealed unique associations between GDS and the presence of specific amino acid changes in peripheral blood-derived Vpr sequences [neuropsychological impairment Vpr (niVpr) variants]. Amino acids N41 and A55 in the Vpr sequence were associated with more pronounced neurocognitive deficits (higher GDS). In contrast, amino acids I37 and S41 were connected to measurably lower GDS. All niVpr variants were also detected in DNA isolated from HIV-1-infected brain tissues. The implication of these results is that niVpr variants alter the genesis and/or progression of HAND through differences in Vpr-mediated effects in the peripheral blood and/or the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-124
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of NeuroVirology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Virology


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