Suppression of preadipocyte differentiation and promotion of adipocyte death by HIV protease inhibitors

Paul Dowell, Charles Flexner, Peter O. Kwiterovich, M. Daniel Lane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

203 Scopus citations


Many human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients taking combination antiretroviral therapy that includes HIV protease inhibitors experience atrophy of peripheral subcutaneous adipose tissue. We investigated the effects of HIV protease inhibitors on adipogenesis and adipocyte survival using the 3T3-L1 preadipocyte cell line. Several HIV protease inhibitors were found either to inhibit preadipocyte differentiation or to promote adipocyte cell death. One protease inhibitor, nelfinavir, elicited both of these effects strongly. When induced to differentiate in the presence of nelfinavir, 3T3-L1 preadipocytes failed to accumulate cytoplasmic triacylglycerol and failed to express normal levels of the adipogenic transcription factors CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein α and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ. The level of the proteolytically processed, active 68-kDa form of sterol regulatory element-binding protein-1, a transcription factor known to promote lipogenic gene expression, also was reduced markedly in nelfinavir-treated cells, whereas the level of the 125-kDa precursor form of this protein was unaffected. The inhibitory effect of nelfinavir occurred subsequent to critical early events in preadipocyte differentiation, expression of CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein β and completion of the mitotic clonal expansion phase, because these events were unaffected by nelfinavir treatment. In addition, nelfinavir treatment of fully differentiated 3T3-L1 adipocytes resulted in DNA strand cleavage and severe loss of cell viability. In contrast, cell proliferation and viability of preadipocytes were unaffected by nelfinavir treatment. Thus, molecular or cellular changes that occur during acquisition of the adipocyte phenotype promote susceptibility to nelfinavir-induced cell death. When considered together, these results suggest that nelfinavir may promote adipose tissue atrophy by compromising adipocyte viability and preventing replacement of lost adipocytes by inhibiting preadipocyte differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41325-41332
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number52
StatePublished - Dec 29 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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