AZT (zidovudine) may act postintegrationally to inhibit generation of HIV-1 progeny virus in chronically infected cells

Virology. 1990 May;176(1):205-15. doi: 10.1016/0042-6822(90)90245-m.


The reverse transcriptase enzyme of HIV-1 is known to be error-prone. We were interested in the possibility of isolating a variant HIV-1 strain that might be capable of replication in the presence of AZT, thought to act by antagonizing reverse transcriptase activity. Toward this end, chronically infected H-9 cells were exposed to various concentrations of AZT for at least 500 days. No mutant has yet arisen from such cultures, which continued to produce high levels of each of the viral proteins p24, p17, gp41, and gp51/66 in the presence of the drug. Notwithstanding such expression of viral antigens, culture fluids from these various AZT-treated cultures were not capable of infecting otherwise susceptible target cells. Electron microscopic observations of AZT-treated chronically infected H-9 cells indicated a lower production of viral structures, in comparison with control cultures. Furthermore, those particles seen at the plasma membrane of AZT-treated cells often appeared to be envelope-deficient. These data suggest that AZT may be able to interfere in some way with proper assembly and/or packaging of infectious progeny HIV-1 at the cell membrane, although other modes of action for a postintegrational effect of AZT cannot be excluded.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Products, gag / immunology
  • HIV Antigens / analysis
  • HIV Core Protein p24
  • HIV-1 / drug effects*
  • HIV-1 / growth & development
  • HIV-1 / immunology
  • HIV-1 / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Neutrophils / microbiology
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • Viral Core Proteins / immunology
  • Virus Replication
  • Zidovudine / pharmacology*


  • Gene Products, gag
  • HIV Antigens
  • HIV Core Protein p24
  • Viral Core Proteins
  • Zidovudine
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase