It has been widely accepted that HIV-1 enters into and buds out from microdomains known as lipid rafts/caveolae of plasma membranes of infected cells. Since lipid rafts are recognized sites for budding and entry of HIV- 1, and since lipids in rafts (including composition/dynamic structure) play a crucial role in modulating the functions of raft-associated signaling proteins and receptors, it has been consistently shown that modulating the composition/structure of lipid rafts have influenced the life cycle of HIV-1 inhibiting its replication. Since anti-retroviral multi-drugs treatment has severe side effects, one of the strategies could be to block the HIV-1 entry and its replication using natural compounds that can target lipid rafts. Dietary and plant-derived compounds have advantage over synthetic drugs exhibiting minimum side effects and are available in cost effective manner. Studies exploring the effects of dietary and plant-derived compounds targeting lipid rafts could be an evolving strategy to control the progression of AIDS. This article is intended to review: (i) composition/structure and conditions for the formation of lipid rafts in plasma membranes, (ii) interaction of HIV-1 with lipid rafts and (iii) to introduce a novel concept that dietary and plant-derived compounds, which can target lipid rafts, could have potential preventive/therapeutic values against the progression of AIDS. More emphasis has been given to the roles of omega-3 fatty acids and plant-derived various triterpenes, especially euphane-types of triterpenes extracted from Neem tree, targeting lipid rafts and its major component cholesterol.
Keywords: HIV, AIDS, plasma membrane, lipid rafts/caveolae, triterpenes, euphane triterpenes, omega-3 fatty acids, cholesterol, sphingolipids
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