Latency-reversing agents (LRAs) are considered a potential tool to cure human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection, but when they are taken alone, virus production by reactivated cells and subsequent infection will occur. Hence, it is crucial to simultaneously take appropriate measures to prevent such secondary HIV-1 infection. In this regard, a strategy to minimize the production of infectious viruses from LRA-reactivated cells is worth pursuing. Here, we focused on a second mitochondria-derived activator of caspases (Smac) mimetic, birinapant, to induce apoptosis in latent HIV-1-infected cells. When birinapant was administered alone, it only slightly increased the expression of caspase-3. However, in combination with an LRA (e.g., PEP005), it strongly induced the expression of caspase-3 followed by enhanced apoptosis. Importantly, the combination eliminated reactivated cells and drastically reduced HIV-1 production. Finally, we found that birinapant decreased the mRNA expression of HIV-1 that was induced by PEP005 in the primary CD4+ T-cells from HIV-1-carrying patients as well. These results suggest that the combination of an LRA and an "apoptosis-inducing" agent, such as a Smac mimetic, is a possible treatment option to decrease HIV-1 reservoirs without the occurrence of HIV-1 production by reactivated cells.
Keywords: HIV; PKC activator; Smac mimetic; birinapant; caspase-3; latency-reversing agent.