This paper analyzes the main trend of the development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) vaccines in recent years. Designing an HIV-1 vaccine that provides robust protection from HIV-1 infection remains a challenge despite many years of effort. Therefore, we describe the receptor binding domain of gp120 as a target for developing AIDS vaccines. And we recommend some measures that could induce efficiently and produce cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies with high binding affinity. Those measures may offer a new way of the research and development of the potent and broad AIDS vaccines.
The recently discovered Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) continues to infect humans, with high mortality. Specific, highly effective therapeutics and vaccines against the MERS-CoV are urgently needed to save human lives and address the pandemic concerns. We identified three human monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), m336, m337, and m338, targeting the receptor (CD26/DPP4) binding domain (RBD) of the MERS-CoV spike glycoprotein from a very large naïve-antibody library (containing ∼1011 antibodies). They bound with high affinity: equilibrium dissociation constants for the three MAbs were equal to 4.2, 9.3, and 15 nM, respectively, as measured by Biacore for Fabs binding to RBD. The avidity for IgG1 m336, m337, and m338 was even higher: 99, 820, and 560 pM, respectively. The antibodies bound to overlapping epitopes that overlap the receptor binding site on the RBD as suggested by competition experiments and further supported by site-directed mutagenesis of the RBD and a docking model of the m336-RBD complex. The highest-affinity MAb, m336, neutralized both pseudotyped and live MERS-CoV with exceptional potency, 50% neutralization at 0.005 and 0.07 μg/ml, respectively, likely by competing with DPP4 for binding to the S glycoprotein. The exceptionally high neutralization activity of these antibodies and especially m336 suggests that they have great potential for prophylaxis and therapy of MERS-CoV infection in humans and as a tool for development of vaccine immunogens. The rapid identification (within several weeks) of potent MAbs suggests a possibility to use the new large antibody library and related methodology for a quick response to the public threat resulting from emerging coronaviruses.
IMPORTANCE A novel human coronavirus, the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), was found to infect humans with a high mortality rate in 2012, just 1 decade after the appearance of the first highly pathogenic coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV). There are no effective therapeutics available. It is highly desirable to find an approach for rapidly developing potent therapeutics against MERS-CoV, which not only can be implemented for MERS treatment but also can help to develop a platform strategy to combat future emerging coronaviruses. We report here the identification of human monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) from a large nonimmune antibody library that target MERS-CoV. One of the antibodies, m336, neutralized the virus with exceptional potency. It therefore may have great potential as a candidate therapeutic and as a reagent to facilitate the development of vaccines against MERS-CoV.
Prophylactic and therapeutic strategies are urgently needed to combat infections caused by the newly emerged Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Here, we have developed a neutralizing monoclonal antibody (MAb), designated Mersmab1, which potently blocks MERS-CoV entry into human cells. Biochemical assays reveal that Mersmab1 specifically binds to the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the MERS-CoV spike protein and thereby competitively blocks the binding of the RBD to its cellular receptor, dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4). Furthermore, alanine scanning of the RBD has identified several residues at the DPP4-binding surface that serve as neutralizing epitopes for Mersmab1. These results suggest that if humanized, Mersmab1 could potentially function as a therapeutic antibody for treating and preventing MERS-CoV infections. Additionally, Mersmab1 may facilitate studies of the conformation and antigenicity of MERS-CoV RBD and thus will guide rational design of MERS-CoV subunit vaccines.
IMPORTANCE MERS-CoV is spreading in the human population and causing severe respiratory diseases with over 40% fatality. No vaccine is currently available to prevent MERS-CoV infections. Here, we have produced a neutralizing monoclonal antibody with the capacity to effectively block MERS-CoV entry into permissive human cells. If humanized, this antibody may be used as a prophylactic and therapeutic agent against MERS-CoV infections. Specifically, when given to a person (e.g., a patient's family member or a health care worker) either before or after exposure to MERS-CoV, the humanized antibody may prevent or inhibit MERS-CoV infection, thereby stopping the spread of MERS-CoV in humans. This antibody can also serve as a useful tool to guide the design of effective MERS-CoV vaccines.
We previously reported that 3-hydroxyphthalic anhydride-modified human serum albumin (HP-HSA) as an anti-HIV microbicide could potently inhibit infection by a broad spectrum of HIV-1 strains; however, its mechanism of action is still elusive. Here, we aimed to identify the target(s) of HP-HSA. HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env)-mediated cell–cell fusion assays were conducted using noninfectious CHO-WT cells or infectious HIV-1IIIB-infected H9 cells as effector cells and MT-2 as target cells. The cell-to-cell transmission and single-round HIV-1 infection assays were performed by measuring luciferase activity. Binding of HP-HSA to CD4 or gp120 was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and flow cytometry, while binding of HP-HSA to the coreceptor CXCR4 or CCR5 was detected by cell-based ELISA. HP-HSA strongly inhibited HIV-1 Env-mediated cell–cell fusion and blocked infection by HIV-1 pseudoviruses bearing Env of HIV-1HXB2 (X4 strain) or HIV-1SF162 (R5 strain). HP-HSA was also effective in blocking HIV-1BaL transmission from infected to uninfected cells. HP-HSA could strongly bind to HIV-1 Env gp120 and cellular receptor CD4. These results suggest that HP-HSA inhibits HIV-1 entry into the target cell by interacting with viral Env gp120 and/or the cellular CD4 receptor, making it a promising microbicide candidate for preventing HIV-1 sexual transmission.
A laboratory-generated reassortant H5 hemagglutinin (HA)/influenza A(H1N1) strain containing 4 mutations in influenza A(H5N1) HA has become transmissible by air among mammals. Here, we constructed 15 influenza A(H5N1) pseudoviruses containing a single mutation or a combination of mutations and showed that the pseudoviruses were susceptible to neutralizing antibodies from patients with influenza A(H5N1) infection and from mice immunized with a vaccine containing the conserved HA1 sequence of influenza A(H5N1). These results indicate that antibodies in patients currently infected by influenza A(H5N1) and antibodies induced by vaccines containing conserved sequences in HA1 of wild-type influenza A(H5N1) are highly effective in cross-neutralizing future influenza A(H5N1) mutants with airborne transmissibility, suggesting that human influenza pandemics caused by these influenza A(H5N1) variants can be prevented.
Patient serum specimens; Neutralizing antibodies; H5N1 influenza virus; Air-transmissibility
The cell membrane plays a key role in compartmentalization, nutrient transportation and signal transduction, while the pattern of protein distribution at both cytoplasmic and ectoplasmic sides of the cell membrane remains elusive. Using a combination of single-molecule techniques, including atomic force microscopy (AFM), single molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS) and stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM), to study the structure of nucleated cell membranes, we found that (1) proteins at the ectoplasmic side of the cell membrane form a dense protein layer (4 nm) on top of a lipid bilayer; (2) proteins aggregate to form islands evenly dispersed at the cytoplasmic side of the cell membrane with a height of about 10–12 nm; (3) cholesterol-enriched domains exist within the cell membrane; (4) carbohydrates stay in microdomains at the ectoplasmic side; and (5) exposed amino groups are asymmetrically distributed on both sides. Based on these observations, we proposed a Protein Layer-Lipid-Protein Island (PLLPI) model, to provide a better understanding of cell membrane structure, membrane trafficking and viral fusion mechanisms.
The polymorphisms involved in drug resistance to non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) in HIV-1 CRF_BC, the most prevalent HIV-1 strain in China, have been poorly characterized.
To reveal the drug resistance mutations, we compared the gene sequences of pol region of HIV-1 CRF_BC from 631 treatment-naïve and 363 treatment-experienced patients using the selection pressure-based method. We calculated an individual Ka/Ks value for each specific amino acid mutation. Result showed that eight polymorphic mutations (W88C, K101Q, I132L, R135L, T139K/R, H221Y and L228R) in RT for treatment-experienced patients were identified, while they, except for R135L, were completely absent in those from treatment-naïve patients. The I132L and T139K/R mutants exhibited high-level resistance to DLV and NVP and moderate resistance to TMC-125 and EFV, while the K101Q and H221Y mutants exhibited an increased resistance to all four NNRTIs tested. The W88C, R135L, and L228R may be RTI-induced adaptive mutations. Y181C+K101Q mutant showed a 2.5-, 4.4-, and 4.7-fold higher resistance to TMC-125, NVP and EFV, respectively, than Y181C alone mutant, while Y181C+H221Y or K103N+H221Y mutants had significantly higher resistance to all four NNRTIs than Y181C or K103N mutants. K103N+T139K and G190A+T139K mutant induce higher resistance (2.0∼14.2-fold and 1.5∼7.2-fold, respectively) to all four NNRTIs than K103N or G190A alone mutation.
I132L and T139K/R are rare but critical mutations associated with NNRTI-resistance for some NNRTIs. K101Q, H221Y and T139K can enhance K103N/Y181C/G190A-assocated NNRTI-resistance. Monitoring these mutations will provide useful information for rational design of the NNRTI-based antiretroviral regimen for HIV-1 CRF_BC-infected patients.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection remains a major health problem worldwide. The role played by microRNAs (miRNAs) in HBV replication and pathogenesis is being increasingly recognized. In this study, we found that miR-15b, an important miRNA during HBV infection and hepatocellular carcinoma development, directly binds hepatocyte nuclear factor 1α (HNF1α) mRNA, a negative regulator of HBV Enhancer I, to attenuate HNF1α expression, resulting in transactivation of HBV Enhancer I, in turn causing the enhancement of HBV replication and expression of HBV antigens, including HBx protein, finally leading to the down-regulated expression of miR-15b in both cell lines and mice in a long cascade of events. Our research showed that miR-15b promotes HBV replication by augmenting HBV Enhancer I activity via direct targeting HNF1α, while HBV replication and antigens expression, particularly the HBx protein, then repress the expression of miR-15b. The reciprocal regulation between miR-15b and HBV controls the level of HBV replication and might play a role in persistent HBV infection. This work adds to the body of knowledge concerning the complex interactions between HBV and host miRNAs.
Avian influenza A/H7N9 virus infection causes pneumonia in humans with a high case fatality rate. However, virus-induced modulation of immune responses is being recognized increasingly as a factor in the pathogenesis of this disease. In this study, we compared the pathogenicity of A/H7N9 infection in BALB/c and C57BL/6 mouse models, and investigated the putative involvement of proinflammatory cytokines in lung injury and viral clearance. In both mouse strains, A/Anhui/1/2013(H7N9) infection with 106 TCID50 resulted in viral replication in lung, severe body weight loss and acute lung injury. During the early infection stage, infected C57BL/6 mice exhibited more severe lung injury, slower recovery from lung damage, less effective viral clearance, higher levels of interlukine (IL)-6, monocyte chemotactic protein (MCP)-1, and IL-1β, and lower levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interferon (IFN)-γ than infected BALB/c mice. These results suggest that TNF-α and IFN-γ may help suppress viral gene expression and increase viral clearance, and that IL-6 and MCP-1 may contribute to lung injury in A/H7N9-infected individuals. In addition, lung damage and the distribution of virus antigen in tissues were similar in young and middle-aged mice. These results suggest that the more serious lung injury in middle-aged or older H7N9 cases is not mainly caused by differences in viral replication in the lung but probably by a dysregulated immune response induced by underlying comorbidities. These results indicate that the extent of dysregulation of the host immune response after H7N9 virus infection most probably determines the outcome of H7N9 virus infection.
A novel human Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) caused outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-like illness with a high mortality rate, raising concerns of its pandemic potential. Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4) was recently identified as its receptor. Here we showed that residues 377 to 662 in the S protein of MERS-CoV specifically bound to DPP4-expressing cells and soluble DPP4 protein and induced significant neutralizing antibody responses, suggesting that this region contains the receptor-binding domain (RBD), which has a potential to be developed as a MERS-CoV vaccine.
An emerging respiratory infectious disease with high mortality, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), is caused by a novel coronavirus (MERS-CoV). It was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and has now spread to eight countries. Development of effective therapeutics and vaccines is crucial to save lives and halt the spread of MERS-CoV. Here, we show that a recombinant protein containing a 212-amino acid fragment (residues 377-588) in the truncated receptor-binding domain (RBD: residues 367–606) of MERS-CoV spike (S) protein fused with human IgG Fc fragment (S377-588-Fc) is highly expressed in the culture supernatant of transfected 293T cells. The purified S377-588-Fc protein efficiently binds to dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4), the receptor of MERS-CoV, and potently inhibited MERS-CoV infection, suggesting its potential to be further developed as a therapeutic modality for treating MERS-CoV infection and saving the patients’ lives. The recombinant S377-588-Fc is able to induce in the vaccinated mice strong MERS-CoV S-specific antibodies, which blocks the binding of RBD to DPP4 receptor and effectively neutralizes MERS-CoV infection. These findings indicate that this truncated RBD protein shows promise for further development as an effective and safe vaccine for the prevention of MERS-CoV infection.
The H5N1 influenza A virus that is currently circulating in Asia, Africa and Europe has resulted in persistent outbreaks in poultry with sporadic transmission to humans. Thus far, it is believed that H5N1 does not possess sufficient ability for human-to-human transmission and subsequent pandemic infection. Both receptor binding specificity and virus infectivity are key factors in determining whether influenza A virus becomes pandemic. The use of human viral isolates in various studies has helped to illustrate the changes in receptor binding specificity and virulence as a result of adaptation in humans. In this review, we highlight the important amino acids and domains of viral proteins related to receptor binding specificity that have been reported for humans and avians using mammalian models. Thus, this review will consolidate findings from studies that have shed light on the receptor binding and transmission characteristics of the H5N1 influenza virus, with the goal of improving our ability to predict the transmission efficiency or pandemic potential of new viral strains.
receptor binding; transmission; H5N1; mammal; influenza A virus
The display of full-length antibody on the cell surface was achieved by fusing a transmembrane domain of the platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR) to the C-terminus of the heavy chain constant region. We also incorporated a furin cleavage site between the constant region and PDGFR transmembrane domain to obtain secreted antibodies. As a result, antibodies can be expressed simultaneously on the cell surface in a membrane-anchored version for screening and selecting through fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis, as well as in conditioned medium in a secreted version for function analysis.
Influenza A viruses (IAVs), particularly the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1, have posed a substantial threat to public health worldwide. Although the laboratory generation of the mutant influenza virus H5N1 with airborne transmissibility among mammals, which has been considered as a dual-use research, may benefit the development of effective vaccines and therapeutics against the emerging infectious agents, it may also pose threats to national biosecurity, laboratory biosafety, and/or public health. This review introduces the classification and characterization of IAVs, pinpoints historic pandemics and epidemics caused by IAVs, emphasizes the significance and necessity of biosafety, summarizes currently established biosafety-related protocols for IAV research, and provides potential strategies to improve biosafety protocols for dual-use research on the highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses and other emerging infectious agents.
A subunit vaccine, RBD-S, is under development to prevent severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused by SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV), which is classified by the US NIH as a category C pathogen. This vaccine is comprised of a recombinant receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV spike (S) protein and formulated on alum, together with a synthetic glucopyranosyl lipid A. The vaccine would induce neutralizing antibodies without causing Th2-type immunopathology. Vaccine development is being led by the nonprofit product development partnership; Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development in collaboration with two academic partners (the New York Blood Center and University of Texas Medical Branch); an industrial partner (Immune Design Corporation); and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. A roadmap for the product development of the RBD-S SARS vaccine is outlined with a goal to manufacture the vaccine for clinical testing within the next 5 years.
receptor-binding domain; recombinant vaccine; SARS; severe acute respiratory syndrome; spike (S) protein
Evidence points to the emergence of a novel human coronavirus, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which causes a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-like disease. In response, the development of effective vaccines and therapeutics remains a clinical priority. To accomplish this, it is necessary to evaluate neutralizing antibodies and screen for MERS-CoV entry inhibitors.
In this study, we produced a pseudovirus bearing the full-length spike (S) protein of MERS-CoV in the Env-defective, luciferase-expressing HIV-1 backbone. We then established a pseudovirus-based inhibition assay to detect neutralizing antibodies and anti-MERS-CoV entry inhibitors.
Our results demonstrated that the generated MERS-CoV pseudovirus allows for single-cycle infection of a variety of cells expressing dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4), the confirmed receptor for MERS-CoV. Consistent with the results from a live MERS-CoV-based inhibition assay, the antisera of mice vaccinated with a recombinant protein containing receptor-binding domain (RBD, residues 377–662) of MERS-CoV S fused with Fc of human IgG exhibited neutralizing antibody response against infection of MERS-CoV pseudovirus. Furthermore, one small molecule HIV entry inhibitor targeting gp41 (ADS-J1) and the 3-hydroxyphthalic anhydride-modified human serum albumin (HP-HSA) could significantly inhibit MERS-CoV pseudovirus infection.
Taken together, the established MERS-CoV inhibition assay is a safe and convenient pseudovirus-based alternative to BSL-3 live-virus restrictions and can be used to rapidly screen MERS-CoV entry inhibitors, as well as evaluate vaccine-induced neutralizing antibodies against the highly pathogenic MERS-CoV.
Novel human coronavirus; MERS-CoV; Spike protein; Pseudovirus; Neutralizing antibodies; Antiviral therapeutics
The unabated circulation of the highly pathogenic avian influenza A virus/H5N1 continues to be a serious threat to public health worldwide. Because of the high frequency of naturally occurring mutations, the emergence of H5N1 variants with high virulence has raised great concerns about the potential transmissibility of the virus in humans. Recent studies have shown that laboratory-mutated or reassortant H5N1 viruses could be efficiently transmitted among mammals, particularly ferrets, the best animal model for humans. Thus, it is critical to establish effective strategies to combat future H5N1 pandemics. In this study, we identified a broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibody (MAb), HA-7, that potently neutralized all tested strains of H5N1 covering clades 0, 1, 2.2, 2.3.4, and 220.127.116.11 and completely protected mice against lethal challenges of H5N1 viruses from clades 1 and 2.3.4. HA-7 specifically targeted the globular head of the H5N1 virus hemagglutinin (HA). Using electron microscopy technology with three-dimensional reconstruction (3D-EM), we discovered that HA-7 bound to a novel and highly conserved conformational epitope that was centered on residues 81 to 83 and 117 to 122 of HA1 (H5 numbering). We further demonstrated that HA-7 inhibited viral entry during postattachment events but not at the receptor-binding step, which is fully consistent with the 3D-EM result. Taken together, we propose that HA-7 could be humanized as an effective passive immunotherapeutic agent for antiviral stockpiling for future influenza pandemics caused by emerging unpredictable H5N1 strains. Our study also provides a sound foundation for the rational design of vaccines capable of inducing broad-spectrum immunity against H5N1.
A decade ago, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS-CoV) caused a global pandemic with a mortality rate of 10%. Reports of recent outbreaks of a SARS-like disease caused by Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have raised serious concerns of a possible reemergence of SARS-CoV, either by laboratory escape or the presence of a natural reservoir. Therefore, the development of effective and safe SARS vaccines is still needed. Based on our previous studies, we believe that the receptor-binding domain (RBD) in the S1 subunit of the SARS-CoV spike (S) protein is the most important target for developing a SARS vaccine. In particular, RBD of S protein contains the critical neutralizing domain (CND), which is able to induce highly potent neutralizing antibody response and cross-protection against divergent SARS-CoV strains. Furthermore, a RBD-based subunit vaccine is expected to be safer than other vaccines that may induce Th2-type immunopathology. This review will discuss key advances in the development of RBD-based SARS vaccines and the possibility of using a similar strategy to develop vaccines against MERS-CoV.
Virus; severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS-CoV); receptor-binding domain (RBD); spike protein; vaccine
The HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) gp41 plays a crucial role in the viral fusion process. The peptides derived from the C-terminal heptad repeat (CHR) of gp41 are potent HIV fusion inhibitors. However, the activity of these anti-HIV-1 peptides in vivo may be attenuated by their induction of anti-gp41 antibodies. Thus, it is essential to identify antiviral peptides or proteins with low, or no, immunogenicity to humans. Here, we found that the C-terminal fragment (aa 462–521) of the human POB1 (the partner of RalBP1), designated C60, is an HIV-1 fusion inhibitor. It bound to N36, the peptide derived from the N-terminal heptad repeat (NHR) of gp41, and to the six-helix bundle (6-HB) formed by N36 and C34, a CHR-peptide, but it did not bind to C34. Unlike the CHR-peptides, C60 did not block gp41 6-HB formation. Rather, results suggest that C60 inhibits HIV-1 fusion by binding to the 6-HB, in particular, the residues in the gp41 NHR domain that are exposed on the surface of 6-HB. Since 6-HB plays a crucial role in the late stage of fusion between the viral envelope and endosomal membrane during the endocytic process of HIV-1, C60 may serve as a host restriction factor to suppress HIV-1 entry into CD4+ T lymphocytes. Taken together, it can be concluded from these results that C60 can be used as a lead for the development of anti-HIV-1 therapeutics or microbicides for the treatment and prevention of HIV-1 infection, as well as a molecular probe to study the fusogenic mechanism of HIV-1.
Polyanionic candidate microbicides, including cellulose sulfate, carrageenan, PRO 2000, were proven ineffective in preventing HIV-1 transmission and even cellulose sulfate showed increased risk of HIV acquisition in the Phase III efficacy trials. Semen plays critical roles in HIV-1 sexual transmission. Specifically, amyloid fibrils formed by fragments of prostatic acidic phosphatase (PAP) in semen termed semen-derived enhancer of virus infection (SEVI) could drastically enhance HIV-1 infection. Here we investigated the interaction between polyanions and PAP248-286, a prototype peptide of SEVI, to understand the possible cause of polyanionic candidate microbicides to fail in clinical trials. We found anionic polymers could efficiently promote SEVI fibril formation, most likely mediated by the natural electrostatic interaction between polyanions and PAP248-286, as revealed by acid native PAGE and Western blot. The overall anti-HIV-1 activity of polyanions in the presence or absence of PAP248-286 or semen was evaluated. In the viral infection assay, the supernatants of polyanions/PAP248-286 or polyanions/semen mixtures containing the free, unbound polyanionic molecules showed a general reduction in antiviral efficacy, while the pellets containing amyloid fibrils formed by the polyanion-bound PAP248-286 showed aggravated enhancement of viral infection. Collectively, from the point of drug-host protein interaction, our study revealed that polyanions facilitate SEVI fibril formation to promote HIV-1 infection, thus highlighting a molecular mechanism underlying the failure of polyanions in clinical trials and the importance of drug-semen interaction in evaluating the anti-HIV-1 efficacy of candidate microbicides.
China’s new leadership has been on board recently and they will face a great challenge, how to control the spread of HIVAIDS in China. Recent studies have shown that sexual transmission has become the main route of HIV spread in China. Therefore, more strong and effective measures have to be taken to protect people from HIV infection via sexual transmission in order to reduce the mortality and morbidity of HIV infection and AIDS in China.
Since the emergence of drug-resistant mutants has limited the efficacy of non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), it is essential to develop new antivirals with better drug-resistance and pharmacokinetic profiles. Here we designed and synthesized a series of 1-[(2-benzyloxyl/alkoxyl)methyl]-5-halo-6-aryluracils, the HEPT analogues, and evaluated their biological activity using Nevirapine and 18 (TNK-651) as reference compounds. Most of these compounds, especially 6b, 7b, 9b, 11b and 7c, exhibited highly potent anti-HIV-1 activity against both wild-type and NNRTI-resistant HIV-1 strains. The compound 7b, that had the highest selectivity index (SI = 38,215), is more potent than Nevirapine and 18. These results suggest that introduction of halogen at the C-5 position may contribute to the effectiveness of these compounds against RTI-resistant variants. In addition, m-substituents on the C-6 aromatic moiety could significantly enhance activity against NNRTI-resistant HIV-1 strains. These compounds can be further developed as next-generation NNRTIs with improved antiviral efficacy and drug-resistance profile.
HIV-1; Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs); Drug-resistance
A strategy for antiviral drug discovery is the elucidation and imitation of viral interference mechanisms. HIV-1 patients benefit from a coinfection with GB Virus C (GBV-C), since HIV-positive individuals with long-term GBV-C viraemia show better survival rates than HIV-1 patients without persisting GBV-C. A direct influence of GBV-C on HIV-1 replication has been shown in coinfection experiments. GBV-C is a human non-pathogenic member of the flaviviridae family that can replicate in T and B cells. Therefore, GBV-C shares partly the same ecological niche with HIV-1. In earlier work we have demonstrated that recombinant glycoprotein E2 of GBV-C and peptides derived from the E2 N-terminus interfere with HIV entry. In this study we investigated the underlying mechanism. Performing a virus-cell fusion assay and temperature-arrested HIV-infection kinetics, we provide evidence that the HIV-inhibitory E2 peptides interfere with late HIV-1 entry steps after the engagement of gp120 with CD4 receptor and coreceptor. Binding and competition experiments revealed that the N-terminal E2 peptides bind to the disulfide loop region of HIV-1 transmembrane protein gp41. In conjunction with computational analyses, we identified sequence similarities between the N-termini of GBV-C E2 and the HIV-1 glycoprotein gp120. This similarity appears to enable the GBV-C E2 N-terminus to interact with the HIV-1 gp41 disulfide loop, a crucial domain involved in the gp120-gp41 interface. Furthermore, the results of the present study provide initial proof of concept that peptides targeted to the gp41 disulfide loop are able to inhibit HIV fusion and should inspire the development of this new class of HIV-1 entry inhibitors.