Influence of L-lysine amino acid on the HIV-1 RNA replication in vitro

Antivir Chem Chemother. 2015 Feb;24(1):39-46. doi: 10.1177/2040206614566582.


Background: Virus replication strongly depends on host metabolic machinery and essential cellular factors, in particular, on amino acid profiles. Amino acids play an important role in the pathogenesis of all virus-related infections both as basic substrates for protein synthesis and as regulators in many metabolic pathways, including gene expression. The inhibitory effects of deficiency or excess of these essential elements on virus replication are widely appreciated. Although the same interrelationship between host cellular factors and HIV have been recognized for a long time, the effects of amino acids on HIV-1 RNA replication dynamic is not yet well documented. Our aim was to determine in this pilot study the direct effect of L-lysine amino acid on HIV-1 RNA replication in vitro in HIV-infected patients.

Methods: A total of 100 HIV-1-infected males without highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) were monitored in our center. The patients were in stage A of the disease according to the 1993 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) classification system for HIV-infection. Patients with HIV were enrolled in one stage (A) of the disease with the average amount CD4 lymphocytes in the range of 200-300 cells/µL at the time of sample acquisition. For evaluation of the effects of essential L-lysine amino acid on HIV-1 RNA replication level, we used a model of amino acid-excess system in vitro following incubation of plasma samples for 24 h at 25 °C. Quantitative HIV-1 RNA assay was performed using (RT-PCR) reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (Rotor-Gene Q, QIAGEN, Germany).

Results: The mean HIV-1 RNA levels were significantly higher in the enriched peripheral blood mononuclear cells plasma samples HIV-infected subjects after 24 h incubation at 25 °C temperature than in the plasma samples the same patients studied on the date of blood tests (p < 0.0001). The number of HIV-1 RNA copies increased in 1.5 times. We observed that in plasma of the same HIV-infected patients after adding L-lysine and following incubation in vitro, viral load increased significantly in comparison with standard samples (p < 0.0001). The increased viral load was found in 100/92 (92%) of HIV-infected subjects. The average number of HIV-1 RNA copies in samples had increased by 4.0 times. However, we found no difference in HIV-1 RNA levels after replacement of L-lysine for L-arginine in comparison samples in the same HIV-infected patients. It is obvious that the addition of L-arginine does not increase viral replication in vitro as L-lysine amino acid supplement does. Additionally, no increase in viral load was determined after adding L-lysine and non toxic doses of its inhibitor (L-lysine alpha-oxidase) in plasma samples.

Conclusions: The results show that L-lysine amino acid excess is characterized by significant increased of HIV-1 RNA copies in enriched peripheral blood mononuclear cells plasma samples of HIV-infected patients. There was evidence for an association between L-lysine supplementation and HIV-1 RNA replication and the level changes of this host essential nutritional element play a key role in the synthesis of the virus proteins and in transcription initiation of the retrovirus life cycle. High intake of L-lysine amino acid may increase the risk of high viral load, subsequent acceleration of immunosuppression and HIV progression. Overall results demonstrate that the simple L-lysine-related model in vitro can be widely used for practical purposes to evaluate HIV-1 RNA replication dynamic, disease prognosis and new approaches in treatment of the patients with human immunodeficiency virus. Although the impact mechanism of L-lysine amino acid on the viral load in the pathogenesis of HIV-infection is at present conjectural and requires further development, the results highlight an interesting target in antiviral therapy, and this statement remains to be proved in further research and clinical trials.

Keywords: HIV; plasma L-lysine; viral load.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acid Oxidoreductases / pharmacology
  • Arginine / pharmacology
  • HIV Infections / blood
  • HIV-1 / drug effects*
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / virology
  • Lysine / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • RNA, Viral / biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • Virus Replication / drug effects*
  • Young Adult


  • RNA, Viral
  • Arginine
  • Amino Acid Oxidoreductases
  • L-lysine oxidase
  • Lysine