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Antivir Ther. 2005;10(2):215-23.

The HIV protease inhibitors nelfinavir and saquinavir, but not a variety of HIV reverse transcriptase inhibitors, adversely affect human proteasome function.

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Department of Medicine and Experimental Oncology, University of Turin, Turin, Italy.



In HIV-infected patients some clinical and immunological benefits of antiretroviral therapy, which frequently include a combination of HIV protease inhibitors (PIs) and reverse transcriptase inhibitors (RTIs), cannot be solely explained by the drugs' action on viral enzymes. Proteasomes constitute the central protease of the ubiquitin ATP-dependent pathway involved in many cellular processes, as well as in HIV maturation and aggressiveness.


To explore whether the PIs nelfinavir and saquinavir and the RTIs abacavir, nevirapine, delavirdine, stavudine and didanosine affect proteasome function in vitro and in vivo.


Peptidase activity of purified human 26S and 20S proteasomes was assayed with and without the drugs at different concentrations. Intracellular proteasome proteolytic activity was evaluated by searching for ubiquitin-tagged proteins in HL60 cells incubated with and without the drugs.


At therapeutic dosages, nelfinavir and saquinavir inhibited proteasome peptidase activity and caused intracellular accumulation of polyubiquitinated proteins, a hallmark of proteasome proteolytic inhibition in vivo; the RTIs failed to evoke either effect.


Proteasomes are targeted by the two PIs but not the RTIs. Therefore, in HIV-infected patients the beneficial effect of a therapy including one of the two PIs should partly rely on inhibition of host proteasome function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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