The HIV protease inhibitor darunavir prevents kidney injury via HIV-independent mechanisms

Xiaobo Gao, Alan Rosales, Heidi Karttunen, Geetha M. Bommana, Buadi Tandoh, Zhengzi Yi, Zainab Habib, Vivette D’ Agati, Weijia Zhang, Michael J. Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


HIV-associated nephropathy (HIVAN) is a rapidly progressive kidney disease that is caused by HIV infection of renal epithelial cells with subsequent expression of viral genes, including vpr. Antiretroviral therapy ameliorates HIVAN without eradicating HIV from the kidneys and the mechanism by which it protects kidneys is poorly understood. Since HIV protease inhibitors have “off target” cellular effects, we studied whether darunavir, the most commonly prescribed protease inhibitor, protects kidneys from HIV-induced injury via mechanisms independent of HIV protease and viral replication. Renal epithelial cells were transduced with lentiviruses encoding HIV (lacking protease and reverse transcriptase), Vpr, or vector control. Darunavir attenuated HIV and Vpr-induced activation of Stat3, Src, Erk, and cytokines, which are critical for HIVAN pathogenesis. We then studied HIV-transgenic mice, which develop HIVAN in the absence of HIV protease or reverse transcriptase. Mice were treated with darunavir, zidovudine, darunavir + zidovudine, or control. Darunavir and darunavir + zidovudine reduced albuminuria and histologic kidney injury and normalized expression of dysregulated proteins. RNA-seq analyses demonstrated that darunavir suppressed HIV-induced upregulation of immune response genes in human kidney cells. These data demonstrate that darunavir protects against HIV-induced renal injury via mechanisms that are independent of inhibition of HIV protease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15857
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


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