The hydrophobic pocket contained within the gp41 coiled coil is an important target for small molecules designed to inhibit HIV-1 fusion. While various screening experiments have identified molecules purported to bind in this pocket, few have confirmed details of the interaction, instead relying on computational docking to predict the binding mode. This is made more challenging by the fact that residues lining the hydrophobic pocket are highly flexible, as is typical for a protein - protein interaction site, limiting the predictive power of computational tools. In this study, we report on an NMR method to define the binding mode of 1-5i, a compound in a series of newly developed indole inhibitors. We show that paramagnetic relaxation enhancement of ligand protons due to an MTSL group positioned close to the binding pocket could be applied quantitatively to distinguish between more than 30 different computational poses, selecting a single pose that agreed with the NMR data. In this pose, important hydrophobic and polar contacts occur with pocket lysine, tryptophan and glutamine residues, including putative hydrogen bonds between the ligand carboxylate and the lysine ε-amino group. A study of the ligand orientation suggests directions for optimization.
A series of indole ring containing compounds were designed based on the structure of the gp41 complex in the region of the hydrophobic pocket. These compounds were synthesized using a Suzuki Coupling reaction, and evaluated using a fluorescence binding assay and cell-cell fusion assay. The observed inhibition constant of compound 7 was 2.1µM, and the IC50 for cell-cell fusion inhibition was 1.1µM. Assay data indicated that 7 is a promising lead compound for optimization into an effective low molecular weight fusion inhibitor.
HIV; gp41; small molecule inhibitor; lead optimization; indole rings
The hydrophobic pocket in the HIV-1 gp41 N-terminal heptad repeat (NHR) domain plays an important role in viral fusion and entry into the host cell, and serves as an attractive target for development of HIV-1 fusion/entry inhibitors. The peptide anti-HIV drug targeting gp41 NHR, T-20 (generic name: enfuvirtide; brand name: Fuzeon), was approved by the U.S. FDA in 2003 as the first HIV fusion/entry inhibitor for treatment of HIV/AIDS patients who fail to respond to the current antiretroviral drugs. However, because T20 lacks the pocket-binding domain (PBD), it exhibits low anti-HIV-1 activity and short half-life. Therefore, several next-generation HIV fusion inhibitory peptides with PBD have been developed. They possess longer half-life and more potent antiviral activity against a broad spectrum of HIV-1 strains, including the T-20-resistant variants. Nonetheless, the clinical application of these peptides is still limited by the lack of oral availability and the high cost of production. Thus, development of small molecule compounds targeting the gp41 pocket with oral availability has been promoted. This review describes the main approaches for identification of HIV fusion/entry inhibitors targeting the gp41 pocket and summarizes the latest progress in developing these inhibitors as a new class of anti-HIV drugs.
HIV-1; gp41; HIV fusion/entry inhibitors; small molecule compounds; hydrophobic pocket
The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) gp41 coiled-coil domain is an important target for fusion inhibitors, including the peptide T20, which has been approved as a drug against HIV-1. Research into nonpeptide fusion inhibitors has focused primarily on a hydrophobic pocket located within the coiled coil and has so far yielded compounds with relatively weak fusion inhibitory activity. Here, we describe metal ion-assisted stabilization of an extended 39-residue construct of gp41, which includes residues of the hydrophobic pocket and also of an extended groove N terminal to the hydrophobic pocket. We show that the presence of a metal ion and the high-affinity interaction between the receptor construct and cognate C-peptides result in a simple and highly selective assay for fusion inhibitors that may be used to scan large compound libraries. The long construct presents multiple potential binding sites along the extended coiled-coil groove. We demonstrate the modular use of assay probes to detect whether compounds bind in the hydrophobic pocket or elsewhere along the groove. Rapid detection and quantitation of hits can lead to the discovery of compounds binding to different sites along the groove and provide structure-activity relationship data for optimization. Compounds binding to adjacent sites could be linked to form more potent fusion inhibitors.
Viral fusion proteins mediate cell entry by undergoing a series of conformational changes that result in virion-target cell membrane fusion. Class I viral fusion proteins, such as those encoded by influenza virus and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), contain two prominent alpha helices. Peptides that mimic portions of these alpha helices inhibit structural rearrangements of the fusion proteins and prevent viral infection. The envelope glycoprotein (E) of flaviviruses, such as West Nile virus (WNV) and dengue virus (DENV), are class II viral fusion proteins comprised predominantly of beta sheets. We used a physio-chemical algorithm, the Wimley-White interfacial hydrophobicity scale (WWIHS)  in combination with known structural data to identify potential peptide inhibitors of WNV and DENV infectivity that target the viral E protein. Viral inhibition assays confirm that several of these peptides specifically interfere with target virus entry with 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) in the 10 μM range. Inhibitory peptides similar in sequence to domains with a significant WWIHS scores, including domain II (IIb), and the stem domain, were detected. DN59, a peptide corresponding to the stem domain of DENV, inhibited infection by DENV (>99% inhibition of plaque formation at a concentrations of <25 μM) and cross-inhibition of WNV fusion/infectivity (>99% inhibition at <25 μM) was also demonstrated with DN59. However, a potent WNV inhibitory peptide, WN83, which corresponds to WNV E domain IIb, did not inhibit infectivity by DENV. Additional results suggest that these inhibitory peptides are noncytotoxic and act in a sequence specific manner. The inhibitory peptides identified here can serve as lead compounds for the development of peptide drugs for flavivirus infection.
Small molecule inhibition of HIV fusion has been an elusive goal, despite years of effort by both pharmaceutical and academic laboratories. In this review, we will discuss the amphipathic properties of both peptide and small molecule inhibitors of gp41-mediated fusion. Many of the peptides and small molecules that have been developed target a large hydrophobic pocket situated within the grooves of the coiled coil, a potential hotspot for inhibiting the trimer of hairpin formation that accompanies fusion. Peptide studies reveal molecular properties required for effective inhibition, including elongated structure and lipophilic or amphiphilic nature. The characteristics of peptides that bind in this pocket provide features that should be considered in small molecule development. Additionally, a novel site for small molecule inhibition of fusion has recently been suggested, involving residues of the loop and fusion peptide. We will review the small molecule structures that have been developed, evidence pointing to their mechanism of action and strategies towards improving their affinity. The data points to the need for a strongly amphiphilic character of the inhibitors, possibly as a means to mediate the membrane - protein interaction that occurs in gp41 in addition to the protein – protein interaction that accompanies the fusion-activating conformational transition.
We have identified oleuropein (Ole) and hydroxytyrosol (HT) as a unique class of HIV-1 inhibitors from olive leaf extracts effective against viral fusion and integration. We used molecular docking simulation to study the interactions of Ole and HT with viral targets. We find that Ole and HT bind to the conserved hydrophobic pocket on the surface of the HIV-gp41 fusion domain by hydrogen bonds with Q577 and hydrophobic interactions with I573, G572, and L568 on the gp41 N-terminal heptad repeat peptide N36, interfering with formation of the gp41 fusion-active core. To test and confirm modeling predications, we examined the effect of Ole and HT on HIV-1 fusion complex formation using native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and circular dichroism spectroscopy. Ole and HT exhibit dose dependent inhibition on HIV-1 fusion core formation with EC50s of 66–58 nM, with no detectable toxicity. Our findings on effects on HIV-1 integrase are reported separately.
HIV-1; AIDS; natural product; small molecule HIV-1 inhibitors; HIV-1 entry inhibitor; Olive Leaf Extract (OLE); Oleuropein (Ole); Hydroxytyrosol (HT); structure-function; molecular modeling
Fosmidomycin, a potent inhibitor of 1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR), has antibacterial and antimalaria activity. Due to its poor pharmacokinetics, more lipophilic DXR inhibitors are needed. However, the hydrophobic binding site(s) in DXR remains elusive. Here, pyridine/quinoline containing phosphonates are identified to be DXR inhibitors with IC50 values as low as 840 nM. We also report three DXR:inhibitor structures, revealing a novel binding mode. The indole group of Trp211 is found to move ~4.6 Å to open up a mainly hydrophobic pocket, where the pyridine/quinoline rings of the inhibitors are located and have strong π-π stacking/charge-transfer interactions with the indole. Docking studies demonstrate our structures could be used to predict the binding modes of other lipophilic DXR inhibitors. Overall, this work shows an important role of Trp211 in inhibitor recognition and provides a structural basis for future drug design and development.
1-Deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate reductoisomerase; protein crystallography; anti-infective; drug design; inhibitor recognition
The HIV gp41 N-trimer pocket region is an ideal viral target because it is extracellular, highly conserved, and essential for viral entry. Here, we report on the design of a pocket-specific d-peptide, PIE12-trimer, that is extraordinarily elusive to resistance and characterize its inhibitory and structural properties. d-Peptides (peptides composed of d-amino acids) are promising therapeutic agents due to their insensitivity to protease degradation. PIE12-trimer was designed using structure-guided mirror-image phage display and linker optimization and is the first d-peptide HIV entry inhibitor with the breadth and potency required for clinical use. PIE12-trimer has an ultrahigh affinity for the gp41 pocket, providing it with a reserve of binding energy (resistance capacitor) that yields a dramatically improved resistance profile compared to those of other fusion inhibitors. These results demonstrate that the gp41 pocket is an ideal drug target and establish PIE12-trimer as a leading anti-HIV antiviral candidate.
The incidence of dengue fever epidemics has increased dramatically over the last few decades. However, no vaccine or antiviral therapies are available. Therefore, the need for safe and effective antiviral drugs has become imperative. The entry of dengue virus into a host cell is mediated by its major envelope (E) protein. The crystal structure of the E protein reveals a hydrophobic pocket that is presumably important for low-pH-mediated membrane fusion. High-throughput docking with this hydrophobic pocket was performed, and hits were evaluated in cell-based assays. Compound 6 was identified as one of the inhibitors and had an average 50% effective concentration of 119 nM against dengue virus serotype 2 in a human cell line. Mechanism-of-action studies demonstrated that compound 6 acts at an early stage during dengue virus infection. It arrests dengue virus in vesicles that colocalize with endocytosed dextran and inhibits NS3 expression. The inhibitors described in this report can serve as molecular probes for the study of the entry of flavivirus into host cells.
Viral fusion proteins mediate the entry of enveloped viral particles into cells by inducing fusion of the viral and target cell membranes. Activated fusion proteins undergo a cascade of conformational transitions and ultimately resolve into a compact trimer of hairpins or six-helix bundle structure, which pulls the interacting membranes together to promote lipid mixing. Significantly, synthetic peptides based on a C-terminal region of the trimer of hairpins are potent inhibitors of membrane fusion and viral entry, and such peptides are typically extensively α-helical. In contrast, an atypical peptide inhibitor of human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV) includes α-helical and nonhelical leash segments. We demonstrate that both the C helix and C-terminal leash are critical to the inhibitory activities of these peptides. Amino acid side chains in the leash and C helix extend into deep hydrophobic pockets at the membrane-proximal end of the HTLV type 1 (HTLV-1) coiled coil, and these contacts are necessary for potent antagonism of membrane fusion. In addition, a single amino acid substitution within the inhibitory peptide improves peptide interaction with the core coiled coil and yields a peptide with enhanced potency. We suggest that the deep pockets on the coiled coil are ideal targets for small-molecule inhibitors of HTLV-1 entry into cells. Moreover, the extended nature of the HTLV-1-inhibitory peptide suggests that such peptides may be intrinsically amenable to modifications designed to improve inhibitory activity. Finally, we propose that leash-like mimetic peptides may be of value as entry inhibitors for other clinically important viral infections.
The hydrophobic pocket within the coiled coil domain of HIV-1 gp41 is considered to be a hotspot suitable for small molecule intervention of fusion, although so far it has yielded only μM inhibitors. Previous peptide studies have identified specific hydrophobic interactions and a Lys-Asp salt bridge as contributing to binding affinity in the pocket. Negative charge appears to be critical for activity of small molecules. We have examined the role of charge and amphiphilic character in the interaction, by studying a series of short pocket binding peptides differing in charge, helical content and in the presence or absence of the Lys-Asp salt bridge, and a series of fatty acid salts with varying charge and hydrocarbon length. Quantitative binding analysis revealed that long range electrostatic forces and a greasy non-specific hydrophobic interaction were sufficient for μM potency. The results suggest that an extended interaction site may be necessary for higher potency. We examined a region of the coiled coil immediately C-terminal to the pocket, and found that specific salt bridge and hydrogen bond networks may reside in this region. Negatively charged groups extended towards or beyond the C-terminus of the pocket could therefore result in improved low molecular weight fusion inhibitors.
HIV-1 gp41; hydrophobic pocket; electrostatics; peptide binding; fatty acid salts
The first stage of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection involves the fusion of viral and host cellular membranes mediated by viral envelope glycoprotein gp120. Inhibitors that specifically target gp120 are gaining increased attention as therapeutics or preventatives to prevent the spread of HIV-1. One promising new group of inhibitors is the peptide triazoles, which bind to gp120 and simultaneously block its interaction with both CD4 and the coreceptor. In this study, we assessed the most potent peptide triazole, HNG-156, for inhibitory breadth, cytotoxicity, and efficacy, both alone and in combination with other antiviral compounds, against HIV-1. HNG-156 inhibited a panel of 16 subtype B and C isolates of HIV-1 in a single-round infection assay. Inhibition of cell infection by replication-competent clinical isolates of HIV-1 was also observed with HNG-156. We found that HNG-156 had a greater than predicted effect when combined with several other entry inhibitors or the reverse transcriptase inhibitor tenofovir. Overall, we find that HNG-156 is noncytotoxic, has a broad inhibition profile, and provides a positive combination with several inhibitors of the HIV-1 life cycle. These results support the pursuit of efficacy and toxicity analyses in more advanced cell and animal models to develop peptide triazole family inhibitors of HIV-1 into antagonists of HIV-1 infection.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) fusion inhibitors blocking viral entry by binding the gp41 heptad repeat 1 (HR1) region offer great promise for antiretroviral therapy, and the first of these inhibitors, T20 (Fuzeon; enfuvirtide), is successfully used in the clinic. It has been reported previously that changes in the 3-amino-acid GIV motif at positions 36 to 38 of gp41 HR1 mediate resistance to T20 but usually not to second-version fusion inhibitors, such as T1249, which target an overlapping but distinct region in HR1 including a conserved hydrophobic pocket (HP). Based on the common lack of cross-resistance and the difficulty of selecting T1249-resistant HIV-1 variants, it has been suggested that the determinants of resistance to first- and second-version fusion inhibitors may be different. To further assess HIV-1 resistance to fusion inhibitors and to analyze where changes in HR1 are tolerated, we randomized 16 codons in the HR1 region, including those making contact with HR2 codons and/or encoding residues in the GIV motif and the HP. We found that changes only at positions 37I, 38V, and 40Q near the N terminus of HR1 were tolerated. The propagation of randomly gp41-mutated HIV-1 variants in the presence of T1249 allowed the effective selection of highly resistant forms, all containing changes in the IV residues. Overall, the extent of T1249 resistance was inversely correlated to viral fitness and cytopathicity. Notably, one HIV-1 mutant showing ∼10-fold-reduced susceptibility to T1249 inhibition replicated with wild type-like kinetics and caused substantial CD4+-T-cell depletion in ex vivo-infected human lymphoid tissue in the presence and absence of an inhibitor. Taken together, our results show that the GIV motif also plays a key role in resistance to second-version fusion inhibitors and suggest that some resistant HIV-1 variants may be pathogenic in vivo.
Alphaviruses and flaviviruses infect cells through low pH-dependent membrane fusion reactions mediated by their structurally similar viral fusion proteins. During fusion, these class II viral fusion proteins trimerize and refold to form hairpin-like structures, with the domain III and stem regions folded back toward the target membrane-inserted fusion peptides. We demonstrate that exogenous domain III can function as a dominant-negative inhibitor of alphavirus and flavivirus membrane fusion and infection. Domain III binds stably to the fusion protein, thus preventing the foldback reaction and blocking the lipid mixing step of fusion. Our data reveal the existence of a relatively long-lived core trimer intermediate with which domain III interacts to initiate membrane fusion. These novel inhibitors of the class II fusion proteins show cross-inhibition within the virus genus and suggest that the domain III–core trimer interaction can serve as a new target for the development of antiviral reagents.
A series of new HIV-1 protease inhibitors with the hydroxyethylamine core and different phenyloxazolidinone P2 ligands were designed and synthesized. Variation of phenyl substitutions at the P2 and P2′ moieties significantly affected the inhibitors’ binding affinity and antiviral potency. In general, compounds with 2- and 4-substituted phenyloxazolidinones at P2 exhibited lower binding affinities than 3-substituted analogues. Crystal structure analyses of ligand-enzyme complexes revealed different binding modes for 2- and 3-substituted P2 moieties in the protease S2 binding pocket, which may explain the compounds’ different binding affinities. Several compounds with 3-substituted P2 moieties demonstrated pM binding affinity, low nM antiviral potency against patient-derived viruses from HIV-1 clades A, B and C, and most retained potency against drug-resistant viruses. Further optimization of these compounds using structure-based design may lead to the development of novel protease inhibitors with improved activity against drug-resistant strains of HIV-1.
Refolding of viral class-1 membrane fusion proteins from a native state to a trimer-of-hairpins structure promotes entry of viruses into cells. Here we present the structure of the bovine leukaemia virus transmembrane glycoprotein (TM) and identify a group of asparagine residues at the membrane-distal end of the trimer-of-hairpins that is strikingly conserved among divergent viruses. These asparagines are not essential for surface display of pre-fusogenic envelope. Instead, substitution of these residues dramatically disrupts membrane fusion. Our data indicate that, through electrostatic interactions with a chloride ion, the asparagine residues promote assembly and profoundly stabilize the fusion-active structures that are required for viral envelope-mediated membrane fusion. Moreover, the BLV TM structure also reveals a charge-surrounded hydrophobic pocket on the central coiled coil and interactions with basic residues that cluster around this pocket are critical to membrane fusion and form a target for peptide inhibitors of envelope function. Charge-surrounded pockets and electrostatic interactions with small ions are common among class-1 fusion proteins, suggesting that small molecules that specifically target such motifs should prevent assembly of the trimer-of-hairpins and be of value as therapeutic inhibitors of viral entry.
Human T-cell leukaemia virus types-1 (HTLV-1) and bovine leukaemia virus (BLV) are divergent blood borne viruses that cause hematological malignancies in humans and cattle respectively. In common with other enveloped viruses, infection of cells by HTLV-1 and BLV is dependent on the membrane fusion properties of the viral envelope glycoproteins. Here we have solved the crystal structure of the BLV transmembrane glycoprotein, and, through a functional and comparative analysis with HTLV-1, we have identified features that are critical to fusion protein function. In particular, we demonstrate that electrostatic interactions with small ions dramatically stabilize the assembly and fusion-associated forms of the BLV TM, but are not required for the cell surface display of native pre-fusogenic envelope. Moreover, we show that charged residues that border a deep hydrophobic pocket contribute directly to appropriate folding of fusion-active envelope and are critical to membrane fusion. Importantly, the charged residues that border the pocket are key features that determine the specificity and activity of peptide inhibitors of envelope function. Our study demonstrates that charge-surrounded pockets and electrostatic interactions with small ions are significant leitmotifs of diverse class-1 fusion proteins and that these elements represent ideal targets for novel small-molecule inhibitors of viral entry.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) entry into the host cell involves a cascade of events and currently represents one of most attractive targets in the search for new antiviral drugs. The fusion-active gp41 core structure is a stable six-helix bundle (6-HB) folded by its trimeric N-terminal heptad repeat (NHR) and C-terminal heptad repeat (CHR). Peptides derived from the CHR region of HIV-1 gp41 are potent fusion inhibitors that target the NHR to block viral and cellular membrane fusion in a dominant negative fashion. However, all CHR peptides reported to date are derived primarily from residues 628 to 673 of gp41; little attention has been paid to the upstream sequence of the pocket binding domain (PBD) in the CHR. Here, we have identified a motif (621QIWNNMT627) located at the upstream region of the gp41 CHR, immediately adjacent to the PBD (628WMEWEREI635). Biophysical characterization demonstrated that this motif is critical for the stabilization of the gp41 6-HB core. The peptide CP621-652, containing the 621QIWNNMT627 motif, was able to interact with T21, a counterpart peptide derived from the NHR, to form a typical 6-HB structure with a high thermostability (thermal unfolding transition [Tm] value of 82°C). In contrast, the 6-HB formed by the peptides N36 and C34, which has been considered to be a core structure of the fusion-active gp41, had a Tm of 64°C. Different from T-20 (brand name Fuseon), which is the first and only HIV-1 fusion inhibitor approved for clinical use, CP621-652 could efficiently block 6-HB formation in a dose-dependent manner. Significantly, CP621-652 had potent inhibitory activity against HIV-1-mediated cell-cell fusion and infection, especially against T-20- and C34-resistant virus. Therefore, our works provide important information for understanding the core structure of the fusion-active gp41 and for designing novel anti-HIV peptides.
The crystal structure of the Sindbis virus capsid protein contains one or two solvent-derived dioxane molecules in the hydrophobic binding pocket. A bisdioxane antiviral agent was designed by linking the two dioxane molecules with a three-carbon chain having R,R connecting stereochemistry, and a stereospecific synthesis was performed. This resulted in an effective antiviral agent that inhibited Sindbis virus replication with an EC50 of 14 μM. The synthesis proceeded through an intermediate (R)-2-hydroxymethyl-[1,4]dioxane, which unexpectedly proved to be a more effecting antiviral agent than the target compound, as evidenced by its EC50 of 3.4 μM as an inhibitor of Sindbis virus replication. Both compounds were not cytotoxic in uninfected BHK cells at concentrations of 1 mM.
Sulfated polysaccharides (i.e., dextran sulfate) and sulfated polymers (i.e., sulfated polyvinylalcohol and sulfated copolymers of acrylic acid with vinylalcohol) were found to be potent and selective inhibitors of the replication of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza virus type A (influenza A virus) but not of other myxoviruses (parainfluenza 3, measles, and influenza B viruses). The compounds were also inhibitory to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and HIV-2 and simian immunodeficiency virus but not simian AIDS-related virus. The mode of antiviral action of the sulfated polysaccharides and polymers can be attributed to an inhibition of virus binding to the cells (HIV-1), inhibition of virus-cell fusion (influenza A virus), or inhibition of both virus-cell binding and fusion (RSV). The fact that the sulfated polysaccharides and polymers are inhibitory to some myxoviruses and retroviruses but not to others seems to depend on the composition of the amino acid sequences of the viral envelope glycoproteins that are involved in virus-cell binding and fusion. All myxoviruses and retroviruses that are sensitive to the sulfated polysaccharides and polymers share a tripeptide segment (Phe-Leu-Gly). This tripeptide segment may be involved either directly (as a target sequence) or indirectly in the inhibitory effects of the compounds on virus-cell binding and fusion.
The development of non-peptide fusion inhibitors through rational drug design has been hampered by the limited accessibility of the gp41 coiled coil target, which is highly hydrophobic, and the absence of structural data defining details of small molecule interactions. Here we describe a new approach for obtaining structural information on small molecules bound in the hydrophobic pocket of gp41, using a paramagnetic probe peptide which binds adjacent to the pocket along an extended coiled coil. Ligand binding in the pocket leads to paramagnetic relaxation effects or pseudocontact shifts of ligand protons. These effects are distance and / or orientation dependent, permitting determination of ligand pose in the pocket. The method is demonstrated with a fast-exchanging ligand. Multiple measurements at different coiled coil and probe peptide ratios enabled accurate determination of the NMR parameters. Use of a labeled probe peptide stabilizes an otherwise aggregation-prone coiled coil, and also enables modulation of the paramagnetic effect to study ligands of various affinities. Ultimately, this technique can provide essential information for structure-based design of non-peptide fusion inhibitors.
Retrovirus entry into cells is mediated by the viral envelope glycoproteins which, through a cascade of conformational changes, orchestrate fusion of the viral and cellular membranes. In the absence of membrane fusion, viral entry into the host cell cannot occur. For human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1), synthetic peptides that mimic a carboxy-terminal region of the transmembrane glycoprotein (TM) ectodomain are potent inhibitors of membrane fusion and virus entry. Here, we demonstrate that this class of inhibitor targets a fusion-active structure of HTLV-1 envelope. In particular, the peptides bind specifically to a core coiled-coil domain of envelope, and peptide variants that fail to bind the coiled-coil lack inhibitory activity. Our data indicate that the inhibitory peptides likely function by disrupting the formation of a trimer-of-hairpins structure that is required for membrane fusion. Importantly, we also show that peptides exhibiting dramatically increased potency can be readily obtained. We suggest that peptides or peptide mimetics targeting the fusion-active structures of envelope may be of therapeutic value in the treatment of HTLV-1 infections.
Several compounds that specifically inhibited replication of the H1 and H2 subtypes of influenza virus type A were identified by screening a chemical library for antiviral activity. In single-cycle infections, the compounds inhibited virus-specific protein synthesis when added before or immediately after infection but were ineffective when added 30 min later, suggesting that an uncoating step was blocked. Sequencing of hemagglutinin (HA) genes of several independent mutant viruses resistant to the compounds revealed single amino acid changes that clustered in the stem region of the HA trimer in and near the HA2 fusion peptide. One of the compounds, an N-substituted piperidine, could be docked in a pocket in this region by computer-assisted molecular modeling. This compound blocked the fusogenic activity of HA, as evidenced by its inhibition of low-pH-induced cell-cell fusion in infected cell monolayers. An analog which was more effective than the parent compound in inhibiting virus replication was synthesized. It was also more effective in blocking other manifestations of the low-pH-induced conformational change in HA, including virus inactivation, virus-induced hemolysis of erythrocytes, and susceptibility of the HA to proteolytic degradation. Both compounds inhibited viral protein synthesis and replication more effectively in cells infected with a virus mutated in its M2 protein than with wild-type virus. The possible functional relationship between M2 and HA suggested by these results is discussed.
Soluble peptides derived from the C-terminal heptad repeat domain of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) gp41 are potent inhibitors of HIV-1 entry and gp41-induced fusion. Target membrane-anchored variants of these peptides have been shown to retain inhibitory activity. Both soluble and membrane-anchored C peptides (MACs) are thought to block fusion by binding to the N-terminal coiled coil domain of gp41 and preventing formation of the final six-helix bundle structure. However, interactions of target MACs with gp41 must be restricted to a subset of trimers that have their hydrophobic fusion peptides inserted into the target membrane. This unique feature of MACs was used to identify the intermediate step of fusion at which gp41 engaged the target membrane. Fusion between HIV envelope-expressing effector cells and target cells was measured by fluorescence microscopy. Expression of MACs in target cells led to less than twofold reduction in the extent of fusion. However, when reaction was first arrested by adding lysolipids that disfavored membrane merger, and the lipids were subsequently removed by washing, control cells supported fusion, whereas those that expressed MACs did not. The drastically improved potency of MACs implies that, at lipid-arrested stage, gp41 bridges the viral and target cell membranes and therefore more optimally binds the membrane-anchored peptides. Experimental demonstration of this intermediate shows that, similar to fusion induced by many other viral glycoproteins, engaging the target membrane by HIV-1 gp41 permits coupling between six-helix bundle formation and membrane merger.
Targeting the HIV integrase (HIV IN) is a clinically validated approach for designing novel anti-HIV therapies. We have previously described the discovery of a novel class of integration inhibitors, 2-(quinolin-3-yl)acetic acid derivatives, blocking HIV replication at a low micromolar concentration through binding in the LEDGF/p75 binding pocket of HIV integrase, hence referred to as LEDGINs. Here we report the detailed characterization of their mode of action. The design of novel and more potent analogues with nanomolar activity enabled full virological evaluation and a profound mechanistic study. As allosteric inhibitors, LEDGINs bind to the LEDGF/p75 binding pocket in integrase, thereby blocking the interaction with LEDGF/p75 and interfering indirectly with the catalytic activity of integrase. Detailed mechanism-of-action studies reveal that the allosteric mode of inhibition is likely caused by an effect on HIV-1 integrase oligomerization. The multimodal inhibition by LEDGINs results in a block in HIV integration and in a replication deficiency of progeny virus. The allosteric nature of LEDGINs leads to synergy in combination with the clinically approved active site HIV IN strand transfer inhibitor (INSTI) raltegravir, and cross-resistance profiling proves the distinct mode of action of LEDGINs and INSTIs. The allosteric nature of inhibition and compatibility with INSTIs underline an interest in further (clinical) development of LEDGINs.