HIV-1 Tat-mediated microglial ferroptosis involves the miR-204–ACSL4 signaling axis

Schematic showing the proposed mechanism involved in HIV-1 Tat-mediated microglial ferroptosis.
Elsevier, Redox Biology, Volume 62, June 2023
Kannan M., Sil S., Oladapo A., Thangaraj A., Periyasamy P., Buch S.

This study was focused on exploring the role of the HIV-1 Tat protein in mediating microglial ferroptosis. Exposure of mouse primary microglial cells (mPMs) to HIV-1 Tat protein resulted in induction of ferroptosis, which was characterized by increased expression of Acyl-CoA synthetase long-chain family member 4 (ACSL4), in turn, leading to increased generation of oxidized phosphatidylethanolamine, elevated levels of lipid peroxidation, upregulated labile iron pool (LIP) and ferritin heavy chain-1 (FTH1), decreased glutathione peroxidase-4 and mitochondrial outer membrane rupture. Also, inhibition of ferroptosis by ferrostatin-1 (Fer-1) or deferoxamine (DFO) treatment suppressed ferroptosis-related changes in mPMs. Similarly, the knockdown of ACSL4 by gene silencing also inhibited ferroptosis induced by HIV-1 Tat. Furthermore, increased lipid peroxidation resulted in increased release of proinflammatory cytokines, such as TNFα, IL6, and IL1β and microglial activation. Pretreatment of mPMs with Fer-1 or DFO further blocked HIV-1 Tat-mediated microglial activation in vitro and reduced the expression and release of proinflammatory cytokines. We identified miR-204 as an upstream modulator of ACSL4, which was downregulated in mPMs exposed to HIV-1 Tat. Transient transfection of mPMs with miR-204 mimics reduced the expression of ACSL4 while inhibiting HIV-1 Tat-mediated ferroptosis and the release of proinflammatory cytokines. These in vitro findings were further validated in HIV-1 transgenic rats as well as HIV + ve human brain samples. Overall, this study underscores a novel mechanism(s) underlying HIV-1 Tat-mediated ferroptosis and microglial activation involving miR-204–ACSL4 signaling.