Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 Tat exerts prominent angiogenic effects which may lead to a variety of vasculopathic conditions in AIDS patients. Because endothelial cells undergo prominent cytoskeletal rearrangement during angiogenesis, we investigated the specific effects of Tat on the endothelial cell actin cytoskeleton. Glutathione S-transferase (GST)-Tat, at a level of 200 ng/ml (equivalent to 52 ng of Tat/ml), caused stress fiber disassembly, peripheral retraction, and ruffle formation in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) and human lung microvascular endothelial cells. At 600 ng of GST-Tat/ml (157 ng of Tat/ml), actin structures were lost, and severe cytoskeletal collapse occurred. In contrast, GST-Tat harboring mutations within either the cysteine-rich or basic domains exerted minimal effects on the endothelial cytoskeleton. HUVEC expressing a DsRed-Tat fusion protein displayed similar actin rearrangements, followed by actin collapse, whereas neighboring nontransfected cells retained normal actin structures. Because active mutants of p21-activated kinase 1 (PAK1) induce identical changes in actin dynamics, we hypothesized that Tat exerts its cytoskeletal effects through PAK1. GST-Tat activated PAK1 within 5 min, and adenovirus delivery of a kinase-dead PAK1 [PAK1(K298A)] completely prevented cytoskeletal collapse induced by GST-Tat or DsRed-Tat and also blocked downstream activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase. Further, GST-Tat increased phosphorylation of the NADPH oxidase subunit p47 phox and caused its rapid redistribution to membrane ruffles. PAK1(K298A) blocked p47phox phosphorylation, and interference with NADPH oxidase function through superoxide scavenging or through expression of a transdominant inhibitor, p67(V204A), prevented GST-Tat-induced alterations in the actin cytoskeleton. We conclude that Tat induces actin cytoskeletal rearrangements through PAK1 and downstream activation of the endothelial NADPH oxidase.
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