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Kurt F. Hauser, Ph.D.

Kurt HauserProfessor
Hermes A. Kontos Medical Sciences Building, Room 439
1217 East Marshall Street
P.O. Box 980613
Richmond, Virginia 23298-0613
Phone: (804) 628-7579
Fax: (804) 828-0676
Email: kfhauser@vcu.edu


  • University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Ph.D., 1983
  • Columbia University, postdoctoral training, 1983-86
  • Pennsylvania State University, postdoctoral training, 1986-87

Research interests

Drug abuse and central nervous system plasticity with emphasis on the effects of opioids

  • NeuroAIDS
  • Drug-induced modulation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1
  • Neuropathogenesis
  • Developmental neurobiology
  • Glial biology
  • Neuroimmunology
  • Endogenous opioids and the pathobiology of dynorphins

Our research attempts to understand the mechanisms by which drug abuse causes lasting changes in CNS organization and function. During development, as well as in the mature brain, we have found that drug abuse can disrupt the production and organization of neurons and glia. We propose the organizational changes are maladaptive and especially revealed when the drug-exposed CNS is further challenged with insults such as disease, trauma and/or aging.

The effects of substance abuse to CNS function are particularly evident in individuals infected with HIV-1. Opioid abuse can dramatically exacerbate the neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative consequences of HIV-1. We discovered that opioid drugs can interact synergistically with HIV-1 proteins to directly increase neuronal injury and death. Our lab also found that opioids can potentiate the production of inflammatory and excitotoxic molecules in HIV-1-exposed microglia and astroglia, which further contribute to neuronal damage. These studies have also added significant insight into mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of neuroAIDS in non-substance abusers. To tackle these problems, a wide variety of cell, molecular, genetic and neuropharmacological strategies are used to understand the complex mechanisms by which substance abuse and HIV-1 disrupt the nervous system.

Selected publications

Podhaizer EM, Zou S, Fitting S, Samano KL, El-Hage N, Knapp PE and Hauser KF. (2012) Morphine and gp120 toxic interactions in striatal neurons are dependent on HIV-1 strain. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology. DOI: 10.1007/s11481-011-9326-z.

Zou S, Fitting S, Hahn Y-K, Welch SP, El-Hage N, Hauser KF amd Knapp PE. (2011) Morphine potentiates neurodegenerative effects of HIV-1 Tat through actions at μ-opioid receptor-expressing glia. Brain. 134(12): 2613-3628.

Suzuki M, El-Hage N, Zou S, Hahn Y-K, Sorrell ME, Knapp PE and Hauser KF. (2011) Fractalkine/CX3CL1 protects neurons from synergistic morphine and HIV-1 Tat-induced dendritic losses and death. Mol Neurodegen. 6(1):78.

El-Hage N, Dever SM, Fitting S, Ahmed T and Hauser KF. (2011) HIV-1 co-infection and morphine co-exposure severely dysregulate HCV-induced hepatic pro-inflammatory cytokine release and free radical production: increased pathogenesis coincides with uncoordinated host-defenses. Journal of Virology. 85(22): 11601-11614.

Zou S, El-Hage N, Podhaizer EM, Knapp PE and Hauser KF. (2011) PTEN gene silencing prevents HIV-1 gp120(IIIB)-induced degeneration of striatal neurons. Journal of Neurovirology. 17(1):41-9.

Yakovleva T, Bazov I, Watanabe H, Hauser KF and Bakalkin G. (2010) Transcriptional control of maladaptive and protective responses in alcoholics: A role of the NF-κB system. Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Bakalkin G, Watanabe H, Jezierska J, Depoorter C, Verschuuren-Bemelmans C, Bazov I, Artemenko KA, Yakovleva T, Dooijes D, Van de Warrenburg BP, Zubarev RA, Kremer B, Knapp PE, Hauser KF, Wijmenga C, Nyberg F, Sinke RJ and Verbeek DS. (2010) Prodynorphin mutations cause the neurodegenerative disorder spinocerebellar ataxia type 23. American Journal of Human Genetics. 87(5):593-603.

Gupta S, Knight AG, Gupta S, Knapp PE, Hauser KF, Keller JN and Bruce-Keller AJ. (2010) HIV-Tat elicits microglial glutamate release: role of NAPDH oxidase and the cystine-glutamate antiporter. Neuroscience Letters. 485(3):233-6.

Fitting S, Xu R, Bull C, Buch SK, El-Hage N, Nath A, Knapp PE and Hauser KF. (2010) Interactive comorbidity between opioid drug abuse and HIV-1 Tat: chronic exposure augments spine loss and sublethal dendritic pathology in striatal neurons. American Journal of Pathology. 177(3):1397-410.

Hahn YK, Vo P, Fitting S, Block ML, Hauser KF and Knapp PE. (2010) Beta-Chemokine production by neural and glial progenitor cells is enhanced by HIV-1 Tat: effects on microglial migration. Journal of Neurochemistry. 114(1):97-109.

Fitting S, Zou S, Chen W, Vo P, Hauser KF and Knapp PE. (2010) Regional heterogeneity and diversity in cytokine and chemokine production by astroglia: differential responses to HIV-1 Tat, gp120, and morphine revealed by multiplex analysis. Journal of Proteome Research. 9(4):1795-804.