Elevated Plasma Protein Carbonyl Concentration Is Associated with More Abnormal White Matter in People with HIV

Patricia K. Riggs, Albert M. Anderson, Bin Tang, Leah H. Rubin, Susan Morgello, Christina M. Marra, Benjamin B. Gelman, David B. Clifford, Donald Franklin, Robert K. Heaton, Ronald J. Ellis, Christine Fennema-Notestine, Scott L. Letendre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Structural brain abnormalities, including those in white matter (WM), remain common in people with HIV (PWH). Their pathogenesis is uncertain and may reflect multiple etiologies. Oxidative stress is associated with inflammation, HIV, and its comorbidities. The post-translational carbonylation of proteins results from oxidative stress, and circulating protein carbonyls may reflect this. In this cross-sectional analysis, we evaluated the associations between protein carbonyls and a panel of soluble biomarkers of neuronal injury and inflammation in plasma (N = 45) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF, n = 32) with structural brain MRI. The volume of abnormal WM was normalized for the total WM volume (nAWM). In this multisite project, all regression models were adjusted for the scanner. The candidate covariates included demographics, HIV disease characteristics, and comorbidities. Participants were PWH on virally suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART) and were mostly white (64.4%) men (88.9%), with a mean age of 56.8 years. In unadjusted analyses, more nAWM was associated with higher plasma protein carbonyls (p = 0.002) and higher CCL2 (p = 0.045). In the adjusted regression models for nAWM, the association with plasma protein carbonyls remained significant (FDR p = 0.018). Protein carbonyls in plasma may be a valuable biomarker of oxidative stress and its associated adverse health effects, including within the central nervous system. If confirmed, these findings would support the hypothesis that reducing oxidative stress could treat or prevent WM injury in PWH.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2410
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • HIV
  • brain
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • oxidative stress
  • white matter


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