Millions of HIV-infected human patients suffer chronic pain. However, the pathological process leading to this devastating neurological condition is unclear, and an effective therapy is not available. Our long-term goals are to better understand the mechanism of HIV-associated pain and to develop rationale-based effective therapies. The objective of this application is to determine the role of glia, especially astrocytes, in the neuropathogenesis of HIV pain. In preliminary studies, we found that the HIV patients who developed chronic pain manifested dramatic astrocyte activation in the spinal cord dorsal horn (SCDH);this was not seen in the HIV patients who otherwise were similar but did not experience chronic pain. In this study, we aim to elucidate the mechanism and pathological significance of the astrocyte activation during the development of HIV gp120 (a major HIV neurotoxin protein)-induced pain in the mouse model. We propose that gp120 activates astrocytes in the SCDH through a mechanism that involves a neuron-to-astrocyte signaling protein, Wnt5a, and that the Wnt5a- regulated astrocyte activation promotes the development of gp120-induced pain. This hypothesis will be tested in three Specific Aims.
In Aim #1, we will determine the requirement of neuronal Wnt5a in the SCDH for gp120 to induce astrocyte activation.
In Aim #2, we will test the idea that Wnt5a activates astrocytes by stimulating a ROR2/JNK signaling pathway.
In Aim #3, we will determine the involvement of Wnt5a-regulated astrocyte activation in the pathogenesis of gp120-induced pain in mice. The proposed research will use an integrated multidisciplinary approach of molecular and cell biology, pharmacology and conditional gene knockout. The results will provide important insights into the mechanism of astrocyte activation and its pathogenic role in HIV- associated chronic pain. The knowledge obtained is expected to facilitate the development of rationale-based medicine for HIV-associated chronic pain.

Public Health Relevance

HIV patients often suffer from chronic pain. This project will help us better understand how HIV may cause pain-related problems in the spinal cord so that effective therapies can be designed to block the pathogenic processes.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
NeuroAIDS and other End-Organ Diseases Study Section (NAED)
Program Officer
Wong, May
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Texas Medical Br Galveston
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Liu, Bolong; Liu, Xin; Tang, Shao-Jun (2016) Interactions of Opioids and HIV Infection in the Pathogenesis of Chronic Pain. Front Microbiol 7:103
Fazeli, Pariya L; Moore, David J; Franklin, Donald R et al. (2016) Lower CSF Aβ is Associated with HAND in HIV-Infected Adults with a Family History of Dementia. Curr HIV Res 14:324-30
Li, Xiang-Yao; Wan, You; Tang, Shao-Jun et al. (2016) Maladaptive Plasticity and Neuropathic Pain. Neural Plast 2016:4842159
Shi, Yuqiang; Shu, Jianghong; Liang, Zongsuo et al. (2016) EXPRESS: Oligodendrocytes in HIV-associated pain pathogenesis. Mol Pain 12:
Tang, Shao-Jun (2016) A repetitive DNA-directed program of chromosome packaging during mitosis. J Genet Genomics 43:471-6
Ma, Qing; Vaida, Florin; Wong, Jenna et al. (2016) Long-term efavirenz use is associated with worse neurocognitive functioning in HIV-infected patients. J Neurovirol 22:170-8
Tang, Shao-Jun (2016) The R-Operon: A Model of Repetitive DNA-Organized Transcriptional Compartmentation of Eukaryotic Chromosomes for Coordinated Gene Expression. Genes (Basel) 7:
Ru, Wenjuan; Tang, Shao-Jun (2016) HIV-1 gp120Bal down-Regulates Phosphorylated NMDA Receptor Subunit 1 in Cortical Neurons via Activation of Glutamate and Chemokine Receptors. J Neuroimmune Pharmacol 11:182-91
Yuan, Su-Bo; Ji, Guangchen; Li, Bei et al. (2015) A Wnt5a signaling pathway in the pathogenesis of HIV-1 gp120-induced pain. Pain 156:1311-9
Malvar, Jemily; Vaida, Florin; Sanders, Chelsea Fitzsimons et al. (2015) Predictors of new-onset distal neuropathic pain in HIV-infected individuals in the era of combination antiretroviral therapy. Pain 156:731-9

Showing the most recent 10 out of 16 publications