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Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2009 Apr;234(4):442-53. doi: 10.3181/0811-RM-317. Epub 2009 Feb 20.

HIV-1 protease inhibitor induced oxidative stress suppresses glucose stimulated insulin release: protection with thymoquinone.

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Tulane University Health Sciences Center, Department of Pharmacology, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA.


The highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) regimen has considerably reduced the mortality rate in HIV-1 positive patients. However, long-term exposure to HAART is associated with a metabolic syndrome manifesting cardiovascular dysfunction, lipodystrophy, and insulin resistance syndrome (IRS). The inclusion of HIV-1 protease inhibitors (PIs) in HAART has been linked to the induction of IRS. Although several molecular mechanisms of PI-induced effects on insulin action have been postulated, the deleterious effects of PIs on insulin production by pancreatic beta-cells have not been fully investigated and therapeutic strategies to ameliorate insulin dysregulation at this level have not been targeted. The present study showed that exposure to several different PIs, nelfinavir (5-10 microM), saquinavir (5-10 microM) and atazanavir (8-20 microM), decreases glucose stimulated insulin secretion from rat pancreatic beta-cells (INS-1). Nelfinavir significantly increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and suppressed cytosolic, but not mitochondrial superoxide dismutase (SOD) levels. Nelfinvair also decreased both glutathione and ATP and increased UCP2 levels in these cells. Simultaneous treatment with thymoquinone (TQ) (2.5 microM), an active ingredient of black seed oil, significantly inhibited the effect of nelfinavir on augmented ROS production and suppressed SOD levels. Both TQ and black seed oil exposure increased glucose stimulated insulin secretion and ameliorated the suppressive effect of nelfinavir. The present findings imply a direct role of ROS in PI induced deleterious effects on pancreatic beta-cells. Our findings also suggest that TQ may be used as a potential therapeutic agent to normalize the dysregulated insulin production observed in HAART treated patients.

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