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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 141  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 383-384

Antiviral activity of cystatin C against HIV

Department of Biochemistry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi 110 029, India

Date of Web Publication24-Jun-2015

Correspondence Address:
Kalpana Luthra
Department of Biochemistry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi 110 029
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0971-5916.159242

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How to cite this article:
Luthra K. Antiviral activity of cystatin C against HIV. Indian J Med Res 2015;141:383-4

How to cite this URL:
Luthra K. Antiviral activity of cystatin C against HIV. Indian J Med Res [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Jul 12];141:383-4. Available from:

There is no effective vaccine against HIV till date. Treatment with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) helps in reducing viral load and delaying disease progression, although it is not possible to completely eliminate HIV with ART [1] . An overall marked reduction in adult HIV prevalence and new infections has been observed in India [2] . The wider access to ART has resulted in a decline of the number of people dying due to AIDS related causes. The antiretroviral therapy targets at restricting HIV replication, restoring and preserving the immune system, improving survival and the quality of life, reducing HIV related mortality and morbidity in addition to reducing HIV transmission and preventing new infections [3] . However, HIV-infected individuals on ART continue to be at high risk for morbidity and mortality despite the effectiveness of the antiretroviral drugs in reducing the viral load; residual inflammation being one of the factors responsible for the immunopathogenesis [4] , further compounded by non-adherence or interruption in the treatment regimen in the Indian settings and other developing nations.

Attention has been focused on the antiviral activities of various proteinase inhibitors, because many viruses including HIV-1 require proteolytic cleavage, which can be specifically inhibited by proteinase inhibitors, to become mature and infectious [5],[6] . Bjorck et al[7] reported that human cystatin C, a thiol proteinase inhibitor, blocks replication of herpes simplex virus (HSV) in vitro, suggesting an important role of thiol proteinase in the maturation process of the virus. In another study, recombinant human cystatin C was demonstrated to be a potent inhibitor of replication of human coronaviruses [8] . Cystatins function as reversible, tight-binding inhibitors of cysteine proteases, and generally do not possess specific inhibitory activity to particular cathepsins. Cystatins exert several immunomodulatory functions by controlling the activity of cysteine proteases or by other mechanisms not related to their inhibitory function [9],[10] . A broad spectrum of biological roles has been suggested for cystatins, including a role in protein catabolism, regulation of hormone processing and bone resorption, inflammation, antigen presentation and T-cell dependent immune response as well as resistance to various bacterial and viral infections [10] .

Cystatin C is a low molecular weight protein that is constitutively produced by all nucleated cells of the body and freely filtered by glomeruli. Serum cystatin C is not only a sensitive marker for renal dysfunction, but also a potential marker for inflammation, suggesting thereby that this marker may be associated with other pathological conditions as well. In population-based studies, cystatin C levels, or cystatin C-based glomerular filtration rate (GFR) estimates emerged as efficient predictors of cardiovascular disease outcomes, and as potential biomarker for endovascular dysfunction in HIV disease [11] . In these studies, cystatin C levels were also correlated with several markers of inflammation [including plasma C reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and fibrinogen]. A 3-year prospective cohort study was conducted among men under good infection control with HAART to test the impact of elevated serum cystatin C on the development of cancers, and cystatin C elevation emerged as a risk factor for cancer in these patients [12] . The findings suggested that monitoring of serum cystatin C level may enable earlier recognition of cancers in subjects with HIV infection [12] .

Cystatin C is abundantly present in the human seminal plasma. In this issue, Vernekar et al[13] have reported anti-HIV activity of cystatin C derived from human seminal plasma and purified for the study. They showed the interaction of cystatin C with the different HIV-1 proteins gp160, gp120, p31 and p24 and its inhibitory effect on HIV-1 protease activity suggesting that it may prevent the normal functioning of HIV protease which in turn, would potentially prevent viral replication and transmission. Further, using the TZM-bl reporter cell line, they demonstrated the dose dependent inhibitory effect of cystatin C on HIV-1 infectivity in the cells. The authors conclude that cystatin C may serve as a potential candidate microbicide to prevent replication of sexually transmitted HIV-1, and when used in combination with the antiretroviral drugs, can effectively reduce viral load [13] .

In an earlier study, Yoshii et al[14] demonstrated that inhibition of cathepsin B activity by cystatin C expression or by a specific inhibitor for cathepsin B, significantly enhanced the CD4-independent HIV-1 vector infection in HeLa and TE671 cells, both of which expressed cathepsin B at relatively higher levels. Their study suggests that cathepsin B inhibits CD4-independent HIV-1 infection. The CD4-independent HIV-1 infection occurs through acidic endosomes. The HIV-1 particles are degraded predominantly by cathepsin B after the viral particles are internalized into endosomes, reducing the CD4-independent infection. Additionally, in this study, it is speculated that the CD4-dependent HIV-1 entry in the host cells does not occur through acidic endosomes. Even when the CD4-dependent HIV-1 particles are internalized to endosomes, the viral entry may occur before the HIV-1 virion-containing endosomes become acidic.

Cystatin C needs to be evaluated in future for its effect on HIV-1 variants that are either CD4 dependent and CD4 independent for infecting cells, to determine whether the antiviral effects of cystatin C are restricted to CD4 dependent HIV alone or otherwise. Also, the inhibitory effect of cystatin C should be checked for the various viral strains to determine its role as an effective antiviral agent that may be used in combination with antiretroviral therapy.

   References Top

Gulick SM, Mellors JW, Havlir D, Eron JJ, Gonzalez C, McMahon D, et al. Treatment with indinavir, zidovudine and lamivudine in adults with human immunodeficiency virus infection and prior antiretroviral therapy. N Engl J Med 1997; 337 : 734-9.   Back to cited text no. 1
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Powderly WG, Landay A, Lederman MM. Recovery of the immune system with antiretroviral therapy: the end of opportunism. JAMA 1998; 280 : S72-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
Libby P, Ridker PM, Hansson GK. Progress and challenges in translating the biology of atherosclerosis. Nature 2011; 473 : 317-25.   Back to cited text no. 4
Aoki H, Akaike T, Abe K, k0 uroda M, a0 rai S, o0 kamura R, et al. Antiviral effect of oryzacystatin, a proteinase inhibitor in rice, against herpes simplex virus type 1 in vitro and in vivo. a0 ntimicrob a0 gents c0 hemother 1995; 39 : 846-9.  Back to cited text no. 5
Klenk HD, Garten W. Host cell proteases controlling virus pathogenicity. Trends Microbiol 1994; 2 : 39-43.   Back to cited text no. 6
Bjorck L, Grubb A, Kjellen L. Cystatin C, a human proteinase inhibitor, blocks replication of herpes simplex virus. J Virol 1990; 64 : 941-3.  Back to cited text no. 7
Collins AR, Grubb A. Inhibitory effects of recombinant human cystatin C on human coronaviruses. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1991; 35 : 2444-6.   Back to cited text no. 8
Kopitar-Jerala N. The role of cystatins in cells of the immune system. FEBS Lett 2006; 580 : 6295-301.  Back to cited text no. 9
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Kalayjian RC. Editorial commentary: Cystatin C and statins in HIV disease. Clin Infect Dis 2014; 59 : 1157-9.  Back to cited text no. 11
Yanagisawa N , Ando M, Tsuchiya K, Nitta K. HIV-infected men with an elevated level of serum cystatin C have a high likelihood of developing cancers. J Antivir Antiretrovir 2012; 4 : 38-42.  Back to cited text no. 12
Vernekar V, Velhal S, Bandivdekar A. Evaluation of cystatin C activities against HIV. Indian J Med Res 2015; 141 : 423-30.  Back to cited text no. 13
Yoshii H, Kamiyama H, Goto K, Oishi K, Katunuma N, Tanaka Y, et al. CD4-independent human immunodeficiency virus infection involves participation of endocytosis and cathepsin B. PLoS One 2011; 6 : e19352.  Back to cited text no. 14


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