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BACKGROUND: Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment has been associated with abnormalities in lipid and mitochondrial metabolism. We compared patterns of gene expression in the subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) of HIV-positive subjects before and after 18-24 months of ARV therapy with HIV-negative controls. METHODS: HIV patients naive to ARV were randomized to receive zidovudine (AZT), lamivudine (3TC) with efavirenz (EFV) or tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) with emtricitabine (FTC) and EFV. Healthy controls (n=15) were matched for age, ethnicity and gender. Patients on a regimen containing abacavir (ABC), 3TC and EFV for 18-24 months were also tested. Genes involved in adipocyte glucocorticoid, lipid and mitochondrial metabolism, and adipocyte differentiation, were profiled with real-time PCR. RESULTS: AZT led to increased visceral adipose tissue (VAT; P=0.012) and VAT:SAT ratio (P=0.036), whereas TDF increased SAT (P=0.047) and peripheral fat/lean body mass ratio (P=0.017). HIV treatment-naive patients had lower plasma lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity (P=0.0001) versus controls (remaining below controls after ARV; P=0.038-0.0001). The overall pattern of gene expression was similar across all treatment groups, being most marked with AZT and least with TDF. There was up-regulation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator-1α, uncoupling protein-2 and hexose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase, and down-regulation of nuclear respiratory factor-1, cytochrome oxidase B, cytochrome c oxidase-4, uncoupling protein-3, 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type-1, glucocorticoid receptor-α, fatty acid synthase, fatty acid binding protein-4, LPL and hormone sensitive lipase (18-24 months post-treatment versus pretreatment levels and controls; P<0.05 to <0.0001). CONCLUSIONS: The decreased expression of genes involved in lipid and mitochondrial metabolism 18-24 months post-ARV treatment in SAT of HIV patients, in conjunction with the increase in uncoupling protein-2 and decrease in cytochrome oxidase B gene expression, provides evidence of mitochondrial dysfunction and a shift to anaerobic metabolism within SAT in EFV-containing ARV regimens.

Original publication




Journal article


Antivir Ther

Publication Date





495 - 507


Adenine, Adipose Tissue, Adult, Anaerobiosis, Anti-HIV Agents, Benzoxazines, Drug Therapy, Combination, Electron Transport Complex IV, Female, Gene Expression Regulation, HIV Infections, HIV-1, Humans, Ion Channels, Lipogenesis, Male, Middle Aged, Mitochondrial Proteins, Organophosphonates, Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors, Tenofovir, Treatment Outcome, Uncoupling Protein 2, Zidovudine