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PLoS One. 2010 Sep 30;5(9). pii: e13121. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013121.

Targeting the PI3K/Akt cell survival pathway to induce cell death of HIV-1 infected macrophages with alkylphospholipid compounds.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York, United States of America.



HIV-1 infected macrophages and microglia are long-lived viral reservoirs persistently producing viral progenies. HIV-1 infection extends the life span of macrophages by promoting the stress-induced activation of the PI3K/Akt cell survival pathway. Importantly, various cancers also display the PI3K/Akt activation for long-term cell survival and outgrowth, and Akt inhibitors have been extensively searched as anti-cancer agents. This led us to investigate whether Akt inhibitors could antagonize long-term survival and cytoprotective phenotype of HIV-1 infected macrophages.


Here, we examined the effect of one such class of drugs, alkylphospholipids (ALPs), on cell death and Akt pathway signals in human macrophages and a human microglial cell line, CHME5, infected with HIV-1 BaL or transduced with HIV-1 vector, respectively. Our findings revealed that the ALPs, perifosine and edelfosine, specifically induced the death of HIV-1 infected primary human macrophages and CHME5 cells. Furthermore, these two compounds reduced phosphorylation of both Akt and GSK3β, a downstream substrate of Akt, in the transduced CHME5 cells. Additionally, we observed that perifosine effectively reduced viral production in HIV-1 infected primary human macrophages. These observations demonstrate that the ALP compounds tested are able to promote cell death in both HIV-1 infected macrophages and HIV-1 expressing CHME5 cells by inhibiting the action of the PI3K/Akt pathway, ultimately restricting viral production from the infected cells.


This study suggests that Akt inhibitors, such as ALP compounds, may serve as potential anti-HIV-1 agents specifically targeting long-living HIV-1 macrophages and microglia reservoirs.

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