What's a Protease Inhibitor?

by Kristin Henry

A Protease inhibitor, is used as a drug to inhibit HIV viral protease in AIDS patients. OK! What does that mean...in English?

A protease is an enzyme that cuts another protein. The protease inhibitor keeps the protease enzyme from doing its job, and the target protein is left uncut.

But how does this help fight an HIV infection? Many HIV proteins come out of the host factory as one long string. For these proteins to function, they must be cut into separate proteins. This is done by a viral Protease.

So, by inhibiting protease enzymes, the virus is stopped from manufacturing its proteins. And without the proteins, the virus "dies".