Since HIV-1 Tat has been associated with neurocognitive dysfunction, we investigated 60 HIV-1 subtype B-infected individuals who were characterized for neurocognitive functioning and had paired CSF and blood plasma samples available. To avoid issues with repeated sampling, we generated population-based HIV-1 tat sequences from each compartment and evaluated these data using a battery of phylogenetic, statistical, and machine learning tools. These analyses identified position HXB2 5905 within the cysteine-rich domain of tat as a signature of CSFderived HIV-1, and a higher number of mixed bases in CSF, as measure of diversity, was associated with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder. Since identified mutations were synonymous, we evaluated the predicted secondary RNA structures, which showed that this mutation altered secondary structure. As a measure of divergence, the genetic distance between the blood and CSF-derived tat was inversely correlated with current and nadir CD4 + T cell counts. These data suggest that specific HIV-1 features of tat influence neurotropism and neurocognitive impairment.
- Central nervous system