March 31, 2010
A natural chemical in bananas could inhibit HIV infection and play a role in future drug applications, investigators report in a new preliminary study.
Researchers knew that a banana-derived lectin, or protein, called BanLec, binds to certain carbohydrate structures, "including those found on viruses containing glycosylated envelope proteins" such as HIV-1. Through this action, Dr. David Markovitz and colleagues at the University of Michigan hypothesized that BanLec could block HIV by binding to the HIV envelope glycoprotein gp120.
In the lab, testing confirmed direct binding of BanLec to gp120, and BanLec blocked HIV-1 cellular entry in temperature-sensitive viral entry studies. BanLec's anti-HIV activity compared favorably with T-20 (Fuzeon) and maraviroc, the team reported.
The banana lectin is promising because it is less likely to be thwarted by HIV, as the virus would probably have to mutate several times over to overcome it, Markovitz and colleagues said. Possible applications might be in microbicides or as a component of antiretroviral therapy, though the scientists conceded such developments are still years away.
The full study, "A Lectin Isolated from Bananas Is a Potent Inhibitor of HIV Replication," was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (2010; 285(12):8646-55).