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author:("covalink, Jan")
1.  GS-8374, a Prototype Phosphonate-Containing Inhibitor of HIV-1 Protease, Effectively Inhibits Protease Mutants with Amino Acid Insertions 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(6):3586-3590.
Insertions in the protease (PR) region of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) represent an interesting mechanism of antiviral resistance against HIV PR inhibitors (PIs). Here, we demonstrate the improved ability of a phosphonate-containing experimental HIV PI, GS-8374, relative to that of other PIs, to effectively inhibit patient-derived recombinant HIV strains bearing PR insertions and numerous other mutations. We correlate enzyme inhibition with the catalytic activities of corresponding recombinant PRs in vitro and provide a biochemical and structural analysis of the PR-inhibitor complex.
PMCID: PMC3957959  PMID: 24371077
3.  Mutations in HIV-1 gag and pol Compensate for the Loss of Viral Fitness Caused by a Highly Mutated Protease 
During the last few decades, the treatment of HIV-infected patients by highly active antiretroviral therapy, including protease inhibitors (PIs), has become standard. Here, we present results of analysis of a patient-derived, multiresistant HIV-1 CRF02_AG recombinant strain with a highly mutated protease (PR) coding sequence, where up to 19 coding mutations have accumulated in the PR. The results of biochemical analysis in vitro showed that the patient-derived PR is highly resistant to most of the currently used PIs and that it also exhibits very poor catalytic activity. Determination of the crystal structure revealed prominent changes in the flap elbow region and S1/S1′ active site subsites. While viral loads in the patient were found to be high, the insertion of the patient-derived PR into a HIV-1 subtype B backbone resulted in reduction of infectivity by 3 orders of magnitude. Fitness compensation was not achieved by elevated polymerase (Pol) expression, but the introduction of patient-derived gag and pol sequences in a CRF02_AG backbone rescued viral infectivity to near wild-type (wt) levels. The mutations that accumulated in the vicinity of the processing sites spanning the p2/NC, NC/p1, and p6pol/PR proteins lead to much more efficient hydrolysis of corresponding peptides by patient-derived PR in comparison to the wt enzyme. This indicates a very efficient coevolution of enzyme and substrate maintaining high viral loads in vivo under constant drug pressure.
PMCID: PMC3421615  PMID: 22644035
4.  Novel substrate-based inhibitors of human glutamate carboxypeptidase II with enhanced lipophilicity 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2011;54(21):7535-7546.
Virtually all low molecular weight inhibitors of human glutamate carboxypeptidase II (GCPII) are highly polar compounds that have limited use in settings where more lipophilic molecules are desired. Here we report the identification and characterization of GCPII inhibitors with enhanced liphophilicity that are derived from a series of newly identified dipeptidic GCPII substrates featuring non-polar aliphatic side chains at the C-terminus. To analyze the interactions governing the substrate recognition by GCPII, we determined crystal structures of the inactive GCPII(E424A) mutant in complex with selected dipeptides and complemented the structural data with quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics calculations. Results reveal the importance of non-polar interactions governing GCPII affinity towards novel substrates as well as formerly unnoticed plasticity of the S1′ specificity pocket. Based on those data, we designed, synthesized and evaluated a series of novel GCPII inhibitors with enhanced lipophilicity, with the best candidates having low nanomolar inhibition constants and clogD > -0.3. Our findings offer new insights into the design of more lipophilic inhibitors targeting GCPII.
PMCID: PMC3222833  PMID: 21923190
PSMA; NAALADase; GCPII; zinc peptidase; folate hydrolase; inhibition; quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM)
5.  HIV-1 protease inhibitor mutations affect the development of HIV-1 resistance to the maturation inhibitor bevirimat 
Retrovirology  2011;8:70.
Maturation inhibitors are an experimental class of antiretrovirals that inhibit Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) particle maturation, the structural rearrangement required to form infectious virus particles. This rearrangement is triggered by the ordered cleavage of the precursor Gag polyproteins into their functional counterparts by the viral enzyme protease. In contrast to protease inhibitors, maturation inhibitors impede particle maturation by targeting the substrate of protease (Gag) instead of the protease enzyme itself. Direct cross-resistance between protease and maturation inhibitors may seem unlikely, but the co-evolution of protease and its substrate, Gag, during protease inhibitor therapy, could potentially affect future maturation inhibitor therapy. Previous studies showed that there might also be an effect of protease inhibitor resistance mutations on the development of maturation inhibitor resistance, but the exact mechanism remains unclear. We used wild-type and protease inhibitor resistant viruses to determine the impact of protease inhibitor resistance mutations on the development of maturation inhibitor resistance.
Our resistance selection studies demonstrated that the resistance profiles for the maturation inhibitor bevirimat are more diverse for viruses with a mutated protease compared to viruses with a wild-type protease. Viral replication did not appear to be a major factor during emergence of bevirimat resistance. In all in vitro selections, one of four mutations was selected: Gag V362I, A364V, S368N or V370A. The impact of these mutations on maturation inhibitor resistance and viral replication was analyzed in different protease backgrounds. The data suggest that the protease background affects development of HIV-1 resistance to bevirimat and the replication profiles of bevirimat-selected HIV-1. The protease-dependent bevirimat resistance and replication levels can be explained by differences in CA/p2 cleavage processing by the different proteases.
These findings highlight the complicated interactions between the viral protease and its substrate. By providing a better understanding of these interactions, we aim to help guide the development of second generation maturation inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3184055  PMID: 21864346
6.  Molecular Characterization of Clinical Isolates of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Resistant to the Protease Inhibitor Darunavir ▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2009;83(17):8810-8818.
Darunavir is the most recently approved human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) protease (PR) inhibitor (PI) and is active against many HIV type 1 PR variants resistant to earlier-generation PIs. Darunavir shows a high genetic barrier to resistance development, and virus strains with lower sensitivity to darunavir have a higher number of PI resistance-associated mutations than viruses resistant to other PIs. In this work, we have enzymologically and structurally characterized a number of highly mutated clinically derived PRs with high levels of phenotypic resistance to darunavir. With 18 to 21 amino acid residue changes, the PR variants studied in this work are the most highly mutated HIV PR species ever studied by means of enzyme kinetics and X-ray crystallography. The recombinant proteins showed major defects in substrate binding, while the substrate turnover was less affected. Remarkably, the overall catalytic efficiency of the recombinant PRs (5% that of the wild-type enzyme) is still sufficient to support polyprotein processing and particle maturation in the corresponding viruses. The X-ray structures of drug-resistant PRs complexed with darunavir suggest that the impaired inhibitor binding could be explained by change in the PR-inhibitor hydrogen bond pattern in the P2′ binding pocket due to a substantial shift of the aminophenyl moiety of the inhibitor. Recombinant virus phenotypic characterization, enzyme kinetics, and X-ray structural analysis thus help to explain darunavir resistance development in HIV-positive patients.
PMCID: PMC2738195  PMID: 19535439
7.  Current and Novel Inhibitors of HIV Protease 
Viruses  2009;1(3):1209-1239.
The design, development and clinical success of HIV protease inhibitors represent one of the most remarkable achievements of molecular medicine. This review describes all nine currently available FDA-approved protease inhibitors, discusses their pharmacokinetic properties, off-target activities, side-effects, and resistance profiles. The compounds in the various stages of clinical development are also introduced, as well as alternative approaches, aiming at other functional domains of HIV PR. The potential of these novel compounds to open new way to the rational drug design of human viruses is critically assessed.
PMCID: PMC3185513  PMID: 21994591
HIV protease; protease inhibitors; HAART; resistance development; pharmacokinetic boosting; protease dimerization; alternative inhibitors
8.  Structural Basis of Interactions between Human Glutamate Carboxypeptidase II and Its Substrate Analogs 
Journal of molecular biology  2008;376(5):1438-1450.
Human glutamate carboxypeptidase II (GCPII) is involved in neuronal signal transduction and intestinal folate absorption by means of the hydrolysis of its two natural substrates, N-acetyl-aspartyl-glutamate (NAAG) and folyl-poly-γ-glutamates, respectively. During the past years, tremendous efforts have been made towards the structural analysis of GCPII. Crystal structures of GCPII in complex with various ligands have provided insight into the binding of these ligands, particularly to the S1′ site of the enzyme. In this paper, we have extended structural characterization of GCPII to its S1 site by using dipeptide-based inhibitors that interact with both S1 and S1′ sites of the enzyme. To this end, we have determined crystal structures of human GCPII in complex with phosphapeptide analogs of folyl-γ-glutamate, aspartyl-glutamate and γ-glutamyl-glutamate, reined at resolution of 1.50 Å, 1.60 Å and 1.67 Å, respectively. The S1 pocket of GCPII could be accurately defined and analyzed for the first time, and the data indicate the importance of Asn519, Arg463, Arg534, and Arg536 for recognition of the penultimate (i.e., P1) substrate residues. Direct interactions between the positively charged guanidinium groups of Arg534 and Arg536 and a P1 moiety of a substrate/inhibitor provide mechanistic explanation of GCPII preference for acidic dipeptides. Additionally, observed conformational flexibility of the Arg463 and Arg536 side chains likely regulates GCPII affinity towards different inhibitors and modulates GCPII substrate specificity. The biochemical experiments assessing the hydrolysis of several GCPII substrate derivatives modified at the P1 position, also included in this report, further complement and extend conclusions derived from the structural analysis. The data described here form an excellent foundation for the structurally aided design of novel low-molecular weight GCPII inhibitors and imaging agents.
PMCID: PMC2753231  PMID: 18234225
prostate-specific membrane antigen; metallopeptidase; folate hydrolase; NAALADase; phosphapeptide
9.  A high-resolution structure of ligand-free human glutamate carboxypeptidase II 
A crystal structure of ligand-free human glutamate carboxypeptidase II refined to 1.65 Å resolution is reported. The structure provides insight into the active-site of the enzyme in its unliganded state.
Human glutamate carboxypeptidase II (GCPII; EC is an established marker for prostate-cancer diagnosis as well as a candidate therapeutic target for the treatment of diverse pathologies that involve glutamatergic transmission. Structural data on GCPII are thus valuable for the design and optimization of GCPII-specific inhibitors and diagnostic probes. The currently available structure of ligand-free GCPII was refined to a resolution of 3.5 Å. This work reports the structure of the protein refined to 1.65 Å resolution, with crystallographic values of R = 0.207 and R free = 0.228. The new structure extends the resolution appreciably and the new model based on this data shows significant differences when compared with the previously published model.
PMCID: PMC2330195  PMID: 17329803
prostate-specific membrane antigens; metallopeptidase; folate hydrolases; NAALADase
10.  Ninety-Nine Is Not Enough: Molecular Characterization of Inhibitor-Resistant Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Protease Mutants with Insertions in the Flap Region▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(12):5869-5878.
While the selection of amino acid insertions in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) reverse transcriptase (RT) is a known mechanism of resistance against RT inhibitors, very few reports on the selection of insertions in the protease (PR) coding region have been published. It is still unclear whether these insertions impact protease inhibitor (PI) resistance and/or viral replication capacity. We show that the prevalence of insertions, especially between amino acids 30 to 41 of HIV type 1 (HIV-1) PR, has increased in recent years. We identified amino acid insertions at positions 33 and 35 of the PR of HIV-1-infected patients who had undergone prolonged treatment with PIs, and we characterized the contribution of these insertions to viral resistance. We prepared the corresponding mutated, recombinant PR variants with or without insertions at positions 33 and 35 and characterized them in terms of enzyme kinetics and crystal structures. We also engineered the corresponding recombinant viruses and analyzed the PR susceptibility and replication capacity by recombinant virus assay. Both in vitro methods confirmed that the amino acid insertions at positions 33 and 35 contribute to the viral resistance to most of the tested PIs. The structural analysis revealed local structural rearrangements in the flap region and in the substrate binding pockets. The enlargement of the PR substrate binding site together with impaired flap dynamics could account for the weaker inhibitor binding by the insertion mutants. Amino acid insertions in the vicinity of the binding cleft therefore represent a novel mechanism of HIV resistance development.
PMCID: PMC2395164  PMID: 18400858
11.  A Novel Substrate-Based HIV-1 Protease Inhibitor Drug Resistance Mechanism 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e36.
HIV protease inhibitor (PI) therapy results in the rapid selection of drug resistant viral variants harbouring one or two substitutions in the viral protease. To combat PI resistance development, two approaches have been developed. The first is to increase the level of PI in the plasma of the patient, and the second is to develop novel PI with high potency against the known PI-resistant HIV protease variants. Both approaches share the requirement for a considerable increase in the number of protease mutations to lead to clinical resistance, thereby increasing the genetic barrier. We investigated whether HIV could yet again find a way to become less susceptible to these novel inhibitors.
Methods and Findings
We have performed in vitro selection experiments using a novel PI with an increased genetic barrier (RO033-4649) and demonstrated selection of three viruses 4- to 8-fold resistant to all PI compared to wild type. These PI-resistant viruses did not have a single substitution in the viral protease. Full genomic sequencing revealed the presence of NC/p1 cleavage site substitutions in the viral Gag polyprotein (K436E and/or I437T/V) in all three resistant viruses. These changes, when introduced in a reference strain, conferred PI resistance. The mechanism leading to PI resistance is enhancement of the processing efficiency of the altered substrate by wild-type protease. Analysis of genotypic and phenotypic resistance profiles of 28,000 clinical isolates demonstrated the presence of these NC/p1 cleavage site mutations in some clinical samples (codon 431 substitutions in 13%, codon 436 substitutions in 8%, and codon 437 substitutions in 10%). Moreover, these cleavage site substitutions were highly significantly associated with reduced susceptibility to PI in clinical isolates lacking primary protease mutations. Furthermore, we used data from a clinical trial (NARVAL, ANRS 088) to demonstrate that these NC/p1 cleavage site changes are associated with virological failure during PI therapy.
HIV can use an alternative mechanism to become resistant to PI by changing the substrate instead of the protease. Further studies are required to determine to what extent cleavage site mutations may explain virological failure during PI therapy.
Changes in the cleavage site of the Gag substrate for the HIV protease can convey resistance to protease inhibitors and might contribute to virologic failure during therapy that includes these drugs.
Editors' Summary
Twenty-five years ago, infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)—the causative agent of AIDS—was a death sentence. However, drugs that attack various stages of the HIV life cycle were soon developed that, although not curing the infection, kept it in check when used in combination and greatly increased the life expectancy of people infected with HIV. Unfortunately, viruses resistant to these drugs have rapidly emerged and antiviral therapy now fails in many patients. The use of HIV protease inhibitors (PIs) in combination therapies, for example, has led to the stepwise selection of viral variants resistant to these drugs. Resistance is first acquired when the viral protease changes so that PIs no longer bind to it and inhibit it efficiently. These changes often reduce the efficiency with which the protease binds its substrates—polyproteins called Gag and GagPol that it chops up into smaller proteins to make new viral particles. So the next step is the accumulation of changes elsewhere in the protease that make it work better, and sometimes changes in its substrate that make it easier to cut; these compensatory changes do not directly affect viral resistance to PIs.
Why Was This Study Done?
To prevent viruses with resistance to PIs emerging, drug doses are kept high in patients and new PIs are being developed with high potency against known PI-resistant HIV variants. Both approaches set a “high genetic barrier” to the development of PI resistance by ensuring that HIV has to incorporate many changes in its protease to become resistant. But, the HIV genome naturally changes—mutates—very rapidly, so novel HIV variants could emerge that are less susceptible to the new potent PIs without the virus having to leap this high genetic barrier. In this study, the researchers have investigated whether HIV can find an alternative route to PI resistance that does not involve the introduction of multiple changes into its protease.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers took wild-type HIV and treated it in the laboratory with a new PI regimen that has a high genetic barrier. By gradually increasing its concentration, the researchers selected three viral populations that were able to grow in 4- to 8-fold higher concentrations of the PI than wild-type virus. None of these populations had mutations in the viral protease. Instead, they all had mutations near one of the sites—the NC/p1 site—where the protease normally cuts the Gag polyprotein. These mutations, the researchers report, enhanced the overall efficiency with which the wild-type protease cleaved the polyprotein, and a selection experiment with another PI showed that the development of PI resistance through alterations near the NC/p1 cleavage site was not unique to one PI. The researchers also investigated the potential clinical significance of this new drug resistance mechanism by looking for the same mutations in nearly 30,000 patient samples. Many of the samples did indeed have these mutations. Finally, they showed that mutations at the NC/p1 cleavage site were associated with virological failure (increased viral replication) during PI therapy in an ongoing clinical trial.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that increased polyprotein processing because of mutations in the natural substrate of the HIV protease might be a new mechanism by which HIV can become resistant to PIs. This strategy, which occurs in the laboratory and in patients, allows HIV to develop PI resistance without the need for multiple changes in its protease and so avoids the high genetic barrier to resistance that new PIs provide. Clinical studies are now needed to test which of the mutations seen in this study contribute to virological failure, whether the degree of this failure is clinically relevant, and whether these substrate mutations enhance the effect of protease mutations. If the clinical importance of the new mechanism is confirmed, genetic examination of both the polyprotein and the protease will be needed when trying to figure out why a PI-containing therapy is failing in individual patients. Furthermore, it will be necessary to test whether this mechanism can contribute to the development of resistance when evaluating new drugs.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases factsheet on HIV infection and AIDS
US Department of Health and Human Services information on AIDS
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information on HIV/AIDS
Aidsmap information on HIV and AIDS provided by the charity NAM
BioAfrica, Bioinformatics for HIV Research, information on HIV-1 protease cleavage sites
PMCID: PMC1769415  PMID: 17227139
12.  Cell-Based Fluorescence Assay for Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Protease Activity 
The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) protease is essential for production of infectious virus and is therefore a major target for the development of drugs against AIDS. Cellular proteins are also cleaved by the protease, which explains its cytotoxic activity and the consequent failure to establish convenient cell-based protease assays. We have exploited this toxicity to develop a new protease assay that relies on transient expression of an artificial protease precursor harboring the green fluorescent protein (GFP-PR). The precursor is activated in vivo by autocatalytic cleavage, resulting in rapid elimination of protease-expressing cells. Treatment with therapeutic doses of HIV-1 protease inhibitors results in a dose-dependent accumulation of the fluorescent precursor that can be easily detected and quantified by flow cytometric and fluorimetric assays. The precursor provides a convenient and noninfectious model for high-throughput screenings of substances that can interfere with the activity of the protease in living cells.
PMCID: PMC90701  PMID: 11502538

Results 1-12 (12)