At present, there are no antiretroviral drugs that inhibit incorporation of the envelope glycoprotein into newly-synthesized virus particles. The botanical glycoside, oleandrin, derived from extracts of Nerium oleander, has previously been shown to reduce the levels of the gp120 envelope glycoprotein on human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) particles and inhibit HIV-1 infectivity in vitro. We therefore tested whether oleandrin or an extract from N. oleander could also inhibit the infectivity of the human T-cell leukemia virus type-1 (HTLV-1): A related enveloped retrovirus and emerging tropical infectious agent. The treatment of HTLV-1+ lymphoma T-cells with either oleandrin or a N. oleander extract did not significantly inhibit viral replication or the release of p19Gag-containing particles into the culture supernatants. However, the collected virus particles from treated cells exhibited reduced infectivity on primary human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (huPBMCs). Unlike HIV-1, extracellular HTLV-1 particles are poorly infectious and viral transmission typically occurs via direct intercellular interactions across a virological synapse. We therefore investigated whether oleandrin or a N. oleander extract could inhibit virus transmission from a GFP-expressing HTLV-1+ lymphoma T-cell-line to huPBMCs in co-culture assays. These results demonstrated that both oleandrin and the crude phytoextract inhibited the formation of virological synapses and the transmission of HTLV-1 in vitro. Importantly, these findings suggest oleandrin may have broad antiviral activity against enveloped viruses by reducing the incorporation of the envelope glycoprotein into mature particles, a stage of the infection cycle not targeted by modern HAART.
Keywords: Antiviral; Apoptosis; Envelope glycoprotein; HAART; HAM/TSP; HIV-1; HTLV-1; Nerium oleander; Oleandrin.