HIV-1 protease inhibitor induced oxidative stress suppresses glucose stimulated insulin release: Protection with thymoquinone

Surabhi Chandra, Debasis Mondal, Krishna C. Agrawal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


The highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) regimen has considerably reduced the mortality rate in HIV-1 positive patients. However, long-term exposure to HAART is associated with a metabolic syndrome manifesting cardiovascular dysfunction, lipodystrophy, and insulin resistance syndrome (IRS). The inclusion of HIV-1 protease inhibitors (PIs) in HAART has been linked to the induction of IRS. Although several molecular mechanisms of PI-induced effects on insulin action have been postulated, the deleterious effects of PIs on insulin production by pancreatic β-cells have not been fully investigated and therapeutic strategies to ameliorate insulin dysregulation at this level have not been targeted. The present study showed that exposure to several different PIs, nelfinavir (5-10 μM), saquinavir (5-10 μM) and atazanavir (8-20 μM), decreases glucose stimulated insulin secretion from rat pancreatic β-cells (INS-1). Nelfinavir significantly increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and suppressed cytosolic, but not mitochondrial superoxide dismutase (SOD) levels. Nelfinvair also decreased both glutathione and ATP and increased UCP2 levels in these cells. Simultaneous treatment with thymoquinone (TQ) (2.5 μM), an active ingredient of black seed oil, significantly inhibited the effect of nelfinavir on augmented ROS production and suppressed SOD levels. Both TQ and black seed oil exposure increased glucose stimulated insulin secretion and ameliorated the suppressive effect of nelfinavir. The present findings imply a direct role of ROS in PI induced deleterious effects on pancreatic β-cells. Our findings also suggest that TQ may be used as a potential therapeutic agent to normalize the dysregulated insulin production observed in HAART treated patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)442-452
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • HIV-1 protease inhibitors
  • Insulin secretion
  • Oxidative stress
  • Rat insulinoma cells (INS-1)
  • Thymoquinone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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