Several reports suggest that HIV infected individuals present signs of accelerated vascular aging including atherosclerosis (AS). Available data suggest that the immune dysregualtion associated with HIV infection, not completely restored by the use of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART), plays a role in AS. However, cART directly or indirectly may also play an important role in AS. It has been suggested that the following four events during the aging process are key to evoke AS;1) Telomere (TL) shortening-mediated DNA damage and apoptosis, 2) impairment of vascular reactivity, 3) inflammation, and 4) impairment of efferocytosis (phagocytosis). In this regard, our group has reported that p90RSK-ERK5 module plays a crucial role in endothelial (EC) dysfunction. Our preliminary data show that cART-induced p90RSK activation inhibited ERK5 transcriptional activity and cART also increased sCD40L plasma levels. Interestingly, sCD40L also increase the activation of p90RSK. Furthermore cART-induced p90RSK activation inhibited ERK5 transcriptional activity thus decreased M? efferocytosis. Lastly, we found that cART caused TL shortening via p90RSK activation, leading to DNA damage and apoptosis. Both increased apoptosis and impairment of efferocytosis evoke secondary stress responses via releasing cellular components including cell-free DNA (cfDNA) and high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1). Based on the rationale above, we propose a novel hypothesis centered on p90RSK activation which provides a link, not previously described, to several observations suggesting an association between cART and accelerated AS in HIV infected individuals. We will test this hypothesis in a 3- year longitudinal study of 180 HIV+ individuals (viral load d50 c/ml) aged e 50 years who are therefore at increased risk of developing measurable changes in markers of AS such as carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) and carotid artery stiffness (CAS). 90 HIV- controls will be matched for age, gender and Reynolds CVD risk score. We will assess the effect of cART and sCD40L on p90RSK in participants-derived monocytes and secondary stress responses both in monocytes (HMGB1) and plasma (HMGB1, 8-OHdG). We will further define the causal effect of cART and sCD40L on p90RSK-induced accelerated aging of EC and M? in animal studies.
Specific Aims :
AIM 1. To determine whether chronic exposure to cART and elevated plasma levels of sCD40L in older HIV infected individuals are associated with p90RSK activation leading to enhanced aging of monocytes (reduce telomere length, reduced efferocytosis) and whether these measures of monocyte aging are associated with markers of atherosclerosis (CIMT and CAS).
AIM 2. To determine whether the markers of secondary stress response (monocytic and plasma levels of HMGB1, plasma levels of 8-hydroxy-2'- deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG)) in cART-treated older HIV infected individuals are associated with measures of CIMT and CAS.
AIM 3. To determine in vitro and in small animal models, the causal effect of cART and sCD40L on p90RSK activation leading to cellular aging of EC and M? which underlie AS.

Public Health Relevance

Over a million people are thought to be HIV infected in the US and it is projected that by 2015 more than half of all HIV+ individuals will be over the age of 50. However, aging is associated with progression of atherosclerosis (AS), which leads to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. Although several reports have suggested that combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) is associated directly and indirectly with premature senescence and subsequent AS, how key events in AS are affected by cART is not well known. Our proposal is centered on the effect of cART and sCD40L on p90RSK-ERK5 module which by affecting the function of both endothelial cells and macrophages leads to AS. The information acquired will inform us on preventive strategies for AS that can be developed in older HIV infected individuals.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Research Project (R01)
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NeuroAIDS and other End-Organ Diseases Study Section (NAED)
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Fleg, Jerome
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University of Rochester
Schools of Dentistry
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