Peripheral nerve exposure to HIV viral envelope protein gp120 induces neuropathic pain and spinal gliosis

Uri Herzberg, Jacqueline Sagen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


Painful sensory neuropathy is a common and debilitating consequence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The underlying causes of neuropathic pain are most likely not due to direct infection of the nervous system by active virus. The goal of this study was to determine whether epineural exposure to the HIV-1 envelope protein gp120 could lead to chronic painful peripheral neuropathy. Two doses of gp120 or BSA control were transiently delivered epineurally via oxidized cellulose wrapped around the rat sciatic nerve. Animals were assessed for neuropathic pain behaviors at several intervals from 1-30 days following nerve surgery. Allodynia and hyperalgesia were observed within 1-3 days following gp120 and sustained throughout the testing period. The gp120-exposed sciatic nerve exhibited early but transient pathology, notably axonal swelling and increased tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) within the nerve trunk. In contrast, intense astrocytic and microglial activation was observed in the spinal cord, and this gliosis persisted for at least 30 days following epineural gp120, in parallel with neuropathic pain behaviors. These findings demonstrate that limited peripheral nerve exposure to HIV protein can induce persistent painful sensory neuropathy that may be sustained and magnified by long-term spinal neuropathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-39
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroimmunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2001


  • AIDS
  • Astrocytes
  • Chronic pain
  • Microglia
  • Neuropathy
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Neurology


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