Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Cellular Targets of the HIV-1 Protease: Just the Tip of the Iceberg?

Version 1 : Received: 2 February 2023 / Approved: 3 February 2023 / Online: 3 February 2023 (04:42:32 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Centazzo, M.; Manganaro, L.; Alvisi, G. Cellular Targets of HIV-1 Protease: Just the Tip of the Iceberg? Viruses 2023, 15, 712. Centazzo, M.; Manganaro, L.; Alvisi, G. Cellular Targets of HIV-1 Protease: Just the Tip of the Iceberg? Viruses 2023, 15, 712.


The human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) viral protease (PR) is one of the most studied viral enzymes, and approval of drugs targeting its catalytic activity opened the door to the develop-ment of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Despite the fact that its crucial role in viri-on maturation is well characterized, an increasing body of research is starting to focus on its abil-ity to cleave host cell proteins, based on recent advances in proteomics and genomics technologies. Such findings are apparently in contrast with the dogma of HIV-1 PR activity being restricted to the interior of nascent virions, and suggest catalytic activity within the host cell environment. Given the limited amount of PR present in the virion at the time of infection, it is tempting to specu-late that such events mainly occur during viral late gene expression, mediated by newly synthe-sized Gag-Pol polyprotein precursors, rather than at a very early stage of infection, before pro-viral integration. Among cellular targets of HIV-1 PR, three major clusters can be identified: pro-teins involved in viral and cellular translation, those controlling cell survival, and restriction fac-tors responsible for innate/intrinsic antiviral responses. Indeed, by cleaving host cell translation initiation factors HIV-1 PR can impair cap-dependent translation, thus promoting IRES-mediated translation of late viral transcripts and viral production, while by targeting several apoptotic fac-tors it modulates cell survival, thus promoting immune evasion and viral dissemination. Addi-tionally, HIV-1 PR counteracts restriction factors incorporated in the virion that would otherwise interfere with nascent virus vitality. Thus, HIV-1 PR appears to modulate host cell function at dif-ferent times and locations during its life cycle, to ensure efficient viral persistency and propaga-tion. This kind of PR-mediated host cell modulation is found in a plethora of different viruses and HIV-1 is no exception, and although we are far from having a complete picture, it is clear that the PR has a multifaceted role in interfering with host machineries to better suit viral replication, and is a field that needs to be explored further.


HIV-1 PR; host factors; host cell shut-off; protease; antiviral therapy; cell death; apoptosis


Biology and Life Sciences, Virology

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