Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 protease inhibitors irreversibly block infectivity of purified virions from chronically infected cells.
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Synthetic peptide analog inhibitors of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) protease were used to study the effects of inhibition of polyprotein processing on the assembly, structure, and infectivity of virions released from a T-cell line chronically infected with HIV-1. Inhibition of proteolytic processing of both Pr55gag and Pr160gag-pol was observed in purified virions from infected T cells after treatment. Protease inhibition was evident by the accumulation of precursors and processing intermediates of Pr55gag and by corresponding decreases in mature protein products. Electron microscopy revealed that the majority of the virion particles released from inhibitor-treated cells after a 24-h treatment had an immature or aberrant capsid morphology. This morphological change correlated with the inhibition of polyprotein processing and a loss of infectivity. The infectivity of virion particles purified from these chronically infected cell cultures was assessed following treatment with the inhibitor for 1 to 3 days. Virions purified from cultures treated with inhibitor for 1 or 2 days demonstrated a 95- to 100-fold reduction in virus titers, and treatment for 3 days resulted in complete loss of detectable infectivity. The fact that virions from treated cultures were unable to establish infection over the 7- to 10-day incubation period in the titration experiments strongly suggests that particles produced by inhibitor-treated cells were unable to reactivate to an infectious form when they were purified away from exogenous protease inhibitor. Thus, a block of HIV-1 protease processing of viral polyproteins by specific inhibitors results in a potent antiviral effect characterized by the production of noninfectious virions with altered protein structures and immature morphologies.
author list (cited authors)
Lambert, D. M., Petteway, S. R., McDanal, C. E., Hart, T. K., Leary, J. J., Dreyer, G. B., ... Metcalf, B. W.