PloS one 2016 12 1511(12) e0168027 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0168027
While highly active anti-retroviral therapy has greatly improved the lives of HIV infected individuals, these treatments are unable to eradicate the virus. Current approaches to reactivate the virus have been limited by toxicity, lack of an orally available therapy, and limited responses in primary CD4+ T cells and in clinical trials. The PKC agonist ingenol, purified from Euphorbia plants, is a potent T cell activator and reactivates latent HIV. Euphorbia kansui itself has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat ascites, fluid retention, and cancer. We demonstrate that an extract of this plant, Euphorbia kansui, is capable of recapitulating T cell activation induced by the purified ingenol. Indeed, Euphorbia kansui induced expression of the early T cell activation marker CD69 and P-TEFb in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, Euphorbia kansui reactivated latent HIV in a CD4+ T cell model of latency and in HIV+ HAART suppressed PBMC. When combined with the other latency reversing agents, the effective dose of Euphorbia kansui required to reactive HIV was reduced 10-fold and resulted in synergistic reactivation of latent HIV. We conclude that Euphorbia Euphorbia kansui reactivates latent HIV and activates CD4+ T cells. When used in combination with a latency reversing agent, the effective dose of Euphorbia kansui is reduced; which suggests its application as a combination strategy to reactivate latent HIV while limiting the toxicity due to global T cell activation. As a natural product, which has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, Euphorbia kansui is attractive as a potential treatment strategy, particularly in resource poor countries with limited treatment options. Further clinical testing will be required to determine its safety with current anti-retroviral therapies.