Proteomic Analysis of Saliva in HIV-Positive Heroin Addicts Reveals Proteins Correlated with Cognition
The prevalence of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) remains high despite effective antiretroviral therapies. Multiple etiologies have been proposed over the last several years to account for this phenomenon, including the neurotoxic effects of antiretrovirals and co-morbid substance abuse; however, no underlying molecular mechanism has been identified. Emerging evidence in several fields has linked the gut to brain diseases, but the effect of the gut on the brain during HIV infection has not been explored. Saliva is the most accessible gut biofluid, and is therefore of great scientific interest for diagnostic and prognostic purposes. This study presents a longitudinal, liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry-based quantitative proteomics study investigating saliva samples taken from 8 HIV-positive (HIV+), 11 −negative (HIV−) heroin addicts. In addition, saliva samples were investigated from 11 HIV−, non-heroin addicted healthy controls. In the HIV+ group, 58 proteins were identified that show significant correlations with cognitive scores, implicating disruption of protein quality control pathways by HIV. Notably, only one protein from the HIV− heroin addict cohort showed a significant correlation with cognitive scores, and no proteins correlated with cognitive scores in the healthy control group. In addition, the majority of correlated proteins have been shown to be associated with exosomes, allowing us to propose that the salivary glands and/or oral epithelium may modulate brain function during HIV infection through the release of discrete packets of proteins in the form of exosomes.