Increased concentrations of the excitotoxin quinolinic acid (QUIN) have been implicated in the neurologic deficits and brain atrophy that may accompany infection with the human immunodeficiency virus type-1. Key neuropathologic features of the AIDS encephalitis are replicated in some macaques following infection with the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). In the present studies, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) QUIN concentrations increased within 2 weeks following infection of 11 rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) with a neurotropic sooty mangabey isolate of the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVsm) and were sustained to > 2 standard deviations above uninfected control macaques. Highest CSF QUIN concentrations (up to 400-fold above pre-inoculation levels) were observed in 6 SIVsm-infected macaques with motor and behavioral abnormalities during life, brain atrophy on MRI scan and inflammatory lesions within the brain and meninges. Four of the 6 neurologic macaques deteriorated rapidly within 12 weeks after inoculation and had substantially larger increases in CSF QUIN levels than 2 other neurologic macaques and 5 macaques without neurologic signs which survived for longer than 37 weeks. Increases in serum QUIN and CSF kynurenic acid also occurred but generally to a lesser degree than the increases in CSF QUIN. In some animals, increases in serum l-kynurenine concentrations and reductions in CSF and serum l-tryptophan occurred and were consistent with activation of indoleamine-2, 3-dioxygenase, the first enzyme of the kynurenine pathway in extrahepatic tissues. CSF QUIN exceeded serum QUIN in 8.8% of samples from macaques with neurologic signs, supporting increased QUIN synthesis within the central nervous system. Production of [13C6]QUIN was demonstrated in one SIVsm-infected macaque and one uninfected control macaque following an intracisternal injection of [13C6]l-tryptophan and suggests that l-tryptophan is a substrate for QUIN synthesis within the nervous system or meninges, although the cellular localization of QUIN synthesis remain to be determined. We conclude that increases in kynurenine pathway metabolism occur in SIV-infected macaques and are most prominent in macaques with neurologic signs. Macaques infected with SIV offer a model to investigate the relationship between the metabolism of neuroactive kynurenines and neurologic disturbances associated with retroviral infection.
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