Antimicrobial Peptides from Amphibian Skin May Inhibit Transmission of HIV

A topical solution containing antimicrobial peptides from amphibian skin may inhibit transmission of HIV say researchers. Their findings appear in the September 2005 issue of the Journal of Virology.

Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are the driving force behind the innate immune response in animals.  Anuran amphibians, frogs and toads, are two of the richest sources of these peptides which are believed to generate antiviral activity against a variety of microbes.  With sexual intercourse remaining as the most common mode of HIV infection throughout the world, a topical solution capable of inhibiting transmission of the virus at mucosal sites could significantly impact prevention efforts.

In the study, 14 peptides from various amphibian species were collected and tested for their ability to inhibit HIV infection. Researchers identified three peptides, caerin 1.1, caerin 1.9, and maculatin 1.1, capable of inhibiting infection within minutes of exposure to the virus.  These same amphibian peptides were also found to be effective at inhibiting the transfer of HIV by dendritic cells (DCs) to T cells.

These data suggest that amphibian-derived peptides can access DC-sequestered HIV and destroy the virus before it can be transferred to T cells, say the researchers. Thus, amphibian-derived antimicrobial peptides show promise as topical inhibitors of mucosal HIV transmission and provide novel tools to understand the complex biology of HIV capture by DCs.

Reference: S.E. VanCompernolle, R.J. Taylor, K. Oswald-Richter, J. Jiang, B.E. Youree, J.H. Bowie, M.J. Tyler, J.M. Conlon, D. Wade, C. Aiken, T.S. Dermody, V.N. KewalRamani, L.A. Rollins-Smith, D. Unutmaz.  2005.  Antimicrobial peptides from amphibian skin potently inhibit human immunodeficiency virus infection and transfer of virus from dendritic cells to T cells.  Journal of Virology, 79. 18: 11598-11606.

Source: American Society for Microbiology