Expression of the HIV-1 envelope protein gp120 in brains of transgenic (tg) mice induces extensive neurodegeneration (Toggas, S. M., E. Masliah, E. M. Rockenstein, G. F. Rall, C. R. Abraham, and L. Mucke. 1994. Nature [Lond.]. 367:188-193.). To further analyze the pathogenesis of gp120-induced neurotoxicity and to assess the neuroprotective potential of human amyloid precursor proteins (hAPPs) in vivo, different hAPP isoforms were expressed in neurons of gp120/hAPP-bigenic mice: hAPP751, which contains a Kunitz-type protease inhibitor domain, or hAPP695, which lacks this domain. Bigenic mice overexpressing hAPP751 at moderate levels showed significantly less neuronal loss, synapto-dendritic degeneration, and gliosis than singly tg mice expressing gp120 alone. In contrast, higher levels of hAPP695 expression in bigenic mice failed to prevent gp120-induced brain damage. These data indicate that hAPP can exert important neuroprotective functions in vivo and that the efficiency of this protection may depend on the hAPP isoform expressed and/or on the level of neuronal hAPP expression. Hence, molecules that mimic beneficial APP activities may be useful in the prevention/treatment of HIV-1-associated nervous system damage and, perhaps, also of other types of neural injury.

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