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1.  Structural and Regulatory Elements of HCV NS5B Polymerase – β-Loop and C-Terminal Tail – Are Required for Activity of Allosteric Thumb Site II Inhibitors 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e84808.
Elucidation of the mechanism of action of the HCV NS5B polymerase thumb site II inhibitors has presented a challenge. Current opinion holds that these allosteric inhibitors stabilize the closed, inactive enzyme conformation, but how this inhibition is accomplished mechanistically is not well understood. Here, using a panel of NS5B proteins with mutations in key regulatory motifs of NS5B – the C-terminal tail and β-loop – in conjunction with a diverse set of NS5B allosteric inhibitors, we show that thumb site II inhibitors possess a distinct mechanism of action. A combination of enzyme activity studies and direct binding assays reveals that these inhibitors require both regulatory elements to maintain the polymerase inhibitory activity. Removal of either element has little impact on the binding affinity of thumb site II inhibitors, but significantly reduces their potency. NS5B in complex with a thumb site II inhibitor displays a characteristic melting profile that suggests stabilization not only of the thumb domain but also the whole polymerase. Successive truncations of the C-terminal tail and/or removal of the β-loop lead to progressive destabilization of the protein. Furthermore, the thermal unfolding transitions characteristic for thumb site II inhibitor – NS5B complex are absent in the inhibitor – bound constructs in which interactions between C-terminal tail and β-loop are abolished, pointing to the pivotal role of both regulatory elements in communication between domains. Taken together, a comprehensive picture of inhibition by compounds binding to thumb site II emerges: inhibitor binding provides stabilization of the entire polymerase in an inactive, closed conformation, propagated via coupled interactions between the C-terminal tail and β-loop.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084808
PMCID: PMC3886995  PMID: 24416288
2.  Non-Catalytic Site HIV-1 Integrase Inhibitors Disrupt Core Maturation and Induce a Reverse Transcription Block in Target Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74163.
HIV-1 integrase (IN) is the target for two classes of antiretrovirals: i) the integrase strand-transfer inhibitors (INSTIs) and ii) the non-catalytic site integrase inhibitors (NCINIs). NCINIs bind at the IN dimer interface and are thought to interfere primarily with viral DNA (vDNA) integration in the target cell by blocking IN-vDNA assembly as well as the IN-LEDGF/p75 interaction. Herein we show that treatment of virus-producing cells, but not of mature virions or target cells, drives NCINI antiviral potency. NCINIs target an essential late-stage event in HIV replication that is insensitive to LEDGF levels in the producer cells. Virus particles produced in the presence of NCINIs displayed normal Gag-Pol processing and endogenous reverse transcriptase activity, but were defective at initiating vDNA synthesis following entry into the target cell. NCINI-resistant virus carrying a T174I mutation in the IN dimer interface was less sensitive to the compound-induced late-stage effects, including the reverse transcription block. Wild-type, but not T174I virus, produced in the presence of NCINIs exhibited striking defects in core morphology and an increased level of IN oligomers that was not observed upon treatment of mature cell-free particles. Collectively, these results reveal that NCINIs act through a novel mechanism that is unrelated to the previously observed inhibition of IN activity or IN-LEDGF interaction, and instead involves the disruption of an IN function during HIV-1 core maturation and assembly.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074163
PMCID: PMC3767657  PMID: 24040198
3.  Large-Scale Functional Purification of Recombinant HIV-1 Capsid 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58035.
During human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) virion maturation, capsid proteins undergo a major rearrangement to form a conical core that protects the viral nucleoprotein complexes. Mutations in the capsid sequence that alter the stability of the capsid core are deleterious to viral infectivity and replication. Recently, capsid assembly has become an attractive target for the development of a new generation of anti-retroviral agents. Drug screening efforts and subsequent structural and mechanistic studies require gram quantities of active, homogeneous and pure protein. Conventional means of laboratory purification of Escherichia coli expressed recombinant capsid protein rely on column chromatography steps that are not amenable to large-scale production. Here we present a function-based purification of wild-type and quadruple mutant capsid proteins, which relies on the inherent propensity of capsid protein to polymerize and depolymerize. This method does not require the packing of sizable chromatography columns and can generate double-digit gram quantities of functionally and biochemically well-behaved proteins with greater than 98% purity. We have used the purified capsid protein to characterize two known assembly inhibitors in our in-house developed polymerization assay and to measure their binding affinities. Our capsid purification procedure provides a robust method for purifying large quantities of a key protein in the HIV-1 life cycle, facilitating identification of the next generation anti-HIV agents.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058035
PMCID: PMC3589475  PMID: 23472130
4.  The HCV Non-Nucleoside Inhibitor Tegobuvir Utilizes a Novel Mechanism of Action to Inhibit NS5B Polymerase Function 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39163.
Tegobuvir (TGV) is a novel non-nucleoside inhibitor (NNI) of HCV RNA replication with demonstrated antiviral activity in patients with genotype 1 chronic HCV infection. The mechanism of action of TGV has not been clearly defined despite the identification of resistance mutations mapping to the NS5B polymerase region. TGV does not inhibit NS5B enzymatic activity in biochemical assays in vitro, suggesting a more complex antiviral mechanism with cellular components. Here, we demonstrate that TGV exerts anti-HCV activity utilizing a unique chemical activation and subsequent direct interaction with the NS5B protein. Treatment of HCV subgenomic replicon cells with TGV results in a modified form of NS5B with a distinctly altered mobility on a SDS-PAGE gel. Further analysis reveals that the aberrantly migrating NS5B species contains the inhibitor molecule. Formation of this complex does not require the presence of any other HCV proteins. The intensity of the aberrantly migrating NS5B species is strongly dependent on cellular glutathione levels as well as CYP 1A activity. Furthermore analysis of NS5B protein purified from a heterologous expression system treated with TGV by mass spectrometry suggests that TGV undergoes a CYP- mediated intracellular activation step and the resulting metabolite, after forming a glutathione conjugate, directly and specifically interacts with NS5B. Taken together, these data demonstrate that upon metabolic activation TGV is a specific, covalent inhibitor of the HCV NS5B polymerase and is mechanistically distinct from other classes of the non-nucleoside inhibitors (NNI) of the viral polymerase.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039163
PMCID: PMC3374789  PMID: 22720059
5.  The Macroscopic Rate of Nucleic Acid Translocation by Hepatitis C virus Helicase NS3h is Dependent on Both the Sugar and Base Moieties 
Journal of molecular biology  2010;400(3):354-378.
The NS3 helicase (NS3h) of hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a 3′ to 5′ SF2 RNA and DNA helicase that is essential for the replication of HCV. We have examined the kinetic mechanism of translocation of NS3h along single-stranded nucleic acid with bases rU, dU and dT and have found that the macroscopic rate of translocation is dependent upon both the base and sugar moieties of the nucleic acid, with approximate macroscopic translocation rates of 3 nt/s (oligo-dT), 35 nt/s (oligo-dU), and 42 nt/s (oligo-rU), respectively. We found a strong correlation between the macroscopic translocation rates and the binding affinity of the translocating NS3h protein to the respective substrates such that weaker affinity corresponded to faster translocation. The values of K0.5 for NS3h translocation at a saturating ATP concentration are: (3.3 ± 0.4) μM nucleotide (poly-dT), (27 ± 2) μM nucleotide (poly-dU), and (36 ± 2) μM nucleotide (poly-rU). Furthermore, the results of isothermal titration of NS3h with these oligonucleotides suggest that differences in TΔS° are the principal source of the differences in the affinity of NS3h binding to these substrates. Interestingly, despite the differences in macroscopic translocation rates and binding affinities, the ATP coupling stoichiometry for NS3h translocation was identical for all three substrates, ~0.5 ATP molecules consumed per nucleotide translocated. This similar periodicity of ATP consumption implies a similar mechanism for NS3h translocation along RNA and DNA substrates.
doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2010.04.065
PMCID: PMC2902667  PMID: 20451531
NS3 helicase; translocation; nucleic acid; ATPase; mechanism
6.  Effective killing of the human pathogen Candida albicans by a specific inhibitor of non-essential mitotic kinesin Kip1p 
Molecular Microbiology  2007;65(2):347-362.
Kinesins from the bipolar (Kinesin-5) family are conserved in eukaryotic organisms and play critical roles during the earliest stages of mitosis to mediate spindle pole body separation and formation of a bipolar mitotic spindle. To date, genes encoding bipolar kinesins have been reported to be essential in all organisms studied. We report the characterization of CaKip1p, the sole member of this family in the human pathogenic yeast Candida albicans. C. albicans Kip1p appears to localize to the mitotic spindle and loss of CaKip1p function interferes with normal progression through mitosis. Inducible excision of CaKIP1 revealed phenotypes unique to C. albicans, including viable homozygous Cakip1 mutants and an aberrant spindle morphology in which multiple spindle poles accumulate in close proximity to each other. Expression of the C. albicans Kip1 motor domain in Escherichia coli produced a protein with microtubule-stimulated ATPase activity that was inhibited by an aminobenzothiazole (ABT) compound in an ATP-competitive fashion. This inhibition results in ‘rigor-like’, tight association with microtubules in vitro. Upon treatment of C. albicans cells with the ABT compound, cells were killed, and terminal phenotype analysis revealed an aberrant spindle morphology similar to that induced by loss of the CaKIP1 gene. The ABT compound discovered is the first example of a fungal spindle inhibitor targeted to a mitotic kinesin. Our results also show that the non-essential nature and implementation of the bipolar motor in C. albicans differs from that seen in other organisms, and suggest that inhibitors of a non-essential mitotic kinesin may offer promise as cidal agents for antifungal drug discovery.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.05787.x
PMCID: PMC1976386  PMID: 17573815
7.  Regulation of KinI kinesin ATPase activity by binding to the microtubule lattice 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2003;163(5):963-971.
KinI kinesins are important in regulating the complex dynamics of the microtubule cytoskeleton. They are unusual in that they depolymerize, rather than move along microtubules. To determine the attributes of KinIs that distinguish them from translocating kinesins, we examined the ATPase activity, microtubule affinity, and three-dimensional microtubule-bound structure of a minimal KinI motor domain. Together, the kinetic, affinity, and structural data lead to the conclusion that on binding to the microtubule lattice, KinIs release ADP and enter a stable, low-affinity, regulated state, from which they do not readily progress through the ATPase cycle. This state may favor detachment, or diffusion of the KinI to its site of action, the microtubule ends. Unlike conventional translocating kinesins, which are microtubule lattice–stimulated ATPases, it seems that with KinIs, nucleotide-mediated modulation of tubulin affinity is only possible when it is coupled to protofilament deformation. This provides an elegant mechanistic basis for their unique depolymerizing activity.
doi:10.1083/jcb.200304034
PMCID: PMC2173608  PMID: 14662742
kinesin; microtubules; cryoelectron microscopy; protein structure; mitosis

Results 1-7 (7)