At present, treatment of HIV infection uses small inhibitory molecules that target HIV protease; however, the emergence of resistant HIV strains is increasingly problematic. To circumvent this, we report here a new 'Trojan horse' strategy to kill HIV-infected cells by exploiting HIV protease. We engineered a transducing, modified, apoptosis-promoting caspase-3 protein, TAT-Casp3, that substitutes HIV proteolytic cleavage sites for endogenous ones and efficiently transduces about 100% of cells, but remains inactive in uninfected cells. In HIV-infected cells, TAT-Casp3 becomes processed into an active form by HIV protease, resulting in apoptosis of the infected cell. This strategy could also be applied to other pathogens encoding specific proteases, such as hepatitis C virus, cytomegalovirus and malaria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-33
Number of pages5
JournalNature medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999


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