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Apoptosis Of Hepatocytes: Relevance For HIV-Infected Patients Under Treatment

Aleksandra Gruevska, Ángela B. Moragrega, Andrea Cossarizza, Juan V. Esplugues, Ana Blas-García, Nadezda Apostolova

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Due to medical advances over the past few decades, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, once a devastatingly mortal pandemic, has become a manageable chronic condition. However, available antiretroviral treatments (cART) cannot fully restore immune health and, consequently, a number of inflammation-associated and/or immunodeficiency complications have manifested themselves in treated HIV-infected patients. Among these chronic, non-AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)-related conditions, liver disease is one of the deadliest, proving to be fatal for 15–17% of these individuals. Aside from the presence of liver-related comorbidities, including metabolic disturbances and co-infections, HIV itself and the adverse effects of cART are the main factors that contribute to hepatic cell injury, inflammation, and fibrosis. Among the molecular mechanisms that are activated in the liver during HIV infection, apoptotic cell death of hepatocytes stands out as a key pathogenic player. In this review, we will discuss the evidence and potential mechanisms involved in the apoptosis of hepatocytes induced by HIV, HIV-encoded proteins, or cART. Some antiretroviral drugs, especially the older generation, can induce apoptosis of hepatic cells, which occurs through a variety of mechanisms, such as mitochondrial dysfunction, increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and induction of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and unfolded protein response (UPR), all of which ultimately lead to caspase activation and cell death.