Polyunsaturated liposomes are antiviral against hepatitis B and C viruses and HIV by decreasing cholesterol levels in infected cells

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Oct 5;107(40):17176-81. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1009445107. Epub 2010 Sep 20.


The pressing need for broad-spectrum antivirals could be met by targeting host rather than viral processes. Cholesterol biosynthesis within the infected cell is one promising target for a large number of viral systems, including hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HIV. Liposomes developed for intracellular, endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-targeted in vivo drug delivery have been modified to include polyunsaturated fatty acids that exert an independent antiviral activity through the reduction of cellular cholesterol. These polyunsaturated ER liposomes (PERLs) have greater activity than lovastatin (Mevacor, Altoprev), which is clinically approved for lowering cholesterol and preventing cardiovascular disease. Treatment of HCV, HBV, and HIV infections with PERLs significantly decreased viral secretion and infectivity, and pretreatment of naïve cells reduced the ability of both HCV and HIV to establish infections because of the decreased levels of plasma membrane cholesterol. Direct competition for cellular receptors was an added effect of PERLs against HCV infections. The greatest antiviral activity in all three systems was the inhibition of viral infectivity through the reduction of virus-associated cholesterol. Our study demonstrates that PERLs are a broadly effective antiviral therapy and should be developed further in combination with encapsulated drug mixtures for enhanced in vivo efficacy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cell Line
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / pharmacology*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / therapeutic use
  • HIV / drug effects*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • Hepacivirus / drug effects*
  • Hepatitis B / drug therapy
  • Hepatitis B virus / drug effects*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Liposomes / chemistry
  • Liposomes / pharmacology*
  • Liposomes / therapeutic use


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Liposomes
  • Cholesterol