Cell-free mitochondrial DNA in CSF is associated with early viral rebound, inflammation, and severity of neurocognitive deficits in HIV infection.
Published Web Locationhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=26428514
Cell-free mitochondiral DNA (mtDNA) is an immunogenic molecule associated with many inflammatory conditions. We evaluated the relationship between cell-free mtDNA in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and neurocognitive performance and inflammation during HIV infection. In a cross-sectional analysis, we evaluated the association of mtDNA levels with clinical assessments, inflammatory markers, and neurocognitive performance in 28 HIV-infected individuals. In CSF, we measured mtDNA levels by droplet digital PCR, and soluble CD14 and CD163, neurofilament light, and neopterin by ELISA. In blood and CSF, we measured soluble IP-10, MCP-1, TNF-α, and IL-6 by ELISA, and intracellular expression of IL-2, IFN-γ, and TNF-α in CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells by flow cytometry. We also evaluated the relationship between CSF pleocytosis and mtDNA longitudinally in another set of five individuals participating in an antiretroviral treatment (ART) interruption study. Cell-free CSF mtDNA levels strongly correlated with neurocognitive performance among individuals with neurocognitive impairment (NCI) (r = 0.77, p = 0.001). CSF mtDNA also correlated with levels of IP-10 in CSF (r = 0.70, p = 0.007) and MCP-1 in blood plasma (r = 0.66, p = 0.01) in individuals with NCI. There were no significant associations between inflammatory markers and mtDNA in subjects without NCI, and levels of mtDNA did not differ between subjects with and without NCI. MtDNA levels preceded pleocytosis and HIV RNA following ART interruption. Cell-free mtDNA in CSF was strongly associated with the severity of neurocognitive dysfunction and inflammation only in individuals with NCI. Our findings suggest that within a subset of subjects cell-free CSF mtDNA is associated with inflammation and degree of NCI.