Lopinavir and ritonavir (LPV/r) are the primary anti-human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drugs recommended by the World Health Organization for treating children aged 3 years and above who are infected with the HIV. These drugs are typically available in liquid formulations to aid in dosing for children who cannot swallow tablets. However, the strong bitter taste associated with these medications can be a significant obstacle to adherence, particularly in young children, and can jeopardize the effectiveness of the treatment. Studies have shown that poor palatability can affect the survival rate of HIV-infected children. Therefore, developing more child-friendly protease inhibitor formulations, particularly those with improved taste, is critical for children with HIV. The molecular mechanism by which lopinavir and ritonavir activate bitter taste receptors, TAS2Rs, is not yet clear. In this study, we utilized a calcium mobilization assay to characterize the activation of bitter taste receptors by lopinavir and ritonavir. We discovered that lopinavir activates TAS2R1 and TAS2R13, while ritonavir activates TAS2R1, TAS2R8, TAS2R13, and TAS2R14. The development of bitter taste blockers that target these receptors with a safe profile would be highly desirable in eliminating the unpleasant bitter taste of these anti-HIV drugs.

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