HIV Uses Group of Proteins to Replicate, Spread
The spread of HIV is abetted by a group of proteins called proteasomes, which help the virus assemble inside cells and spread to other cells in the body, according to new studies published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Proteasomes, different from protease, which is an enzyme that assists HIV in creating active proteins, normally perform "housekeeping chores" in the body by identifying and destroying old or unneeded proteins. HIV, however, uses proteasomes to assemble new viral particles and spread them to uninfected cells. Ulrich Schubert of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, author of one of the studies, reported that test tube studies show that blocking the action of the proteasome proteins can reduce the spread of HIV infection by about 98%. One function of a proteasome inhibitor is to block ubiquitin, which helps HIV complete the assembly of a new viral particle at the cell membrane. Thus when proteasome action is blocked, HIV particle formation is "crippled," the researchers found. However, Schubert "cautioned," since the research was conducted only in test tubes it is not know whether proteasome inhibitors would successfully combat HIV in humans. "We would never inject this drug into an HIV-infected person, because we do not know what would happen," he said. Proteasome inhibitor tests will first be conducted in monkeys, which could take months, he stated. Dr. JoThis is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.