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Creating an Artificial Tail Anchor as a Novel Strategy To Enhance the Potency of Peptide-Based HIV Fusion Inhibitors.

Creating an Artificial Tail Anchor as a Novel Strategy To Enhance the Potency of Peptide-Based HIV Fusion Inhibitors.
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Su S, Zhu Y, Ye S, Qi Q, Xia S, Ma Z, Yu F, Wang Q, Zhang R, Jiang S, Lu L,


Su S, Zhu Y, Ye S, Qi Q, Xia S, Ma Z, Yu F, Wang Q, Zhang R, Jiang S, Lu L, (click to view)

Su S, Zhu Y, Ye S, Qi Q, Xia S, Ma Z, Yu F, Wang Q, Zhang R, Jiang S, Lu L,

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Journal of virology 2016 12 1691(1) pii

Abstract

20 (enfuvirtide) and other peptides derived from the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) gp41 C-terminal heptad repeat (CHR) region inhibit HIV fusion by binding to the hydrophobic grooves on the N-terminal heptad repeat (NHR) trimer and blocking six-helix-bundle (6-HB) formation. Several strategies focusing on the binding grooves of the NHR trimer have been adopted to increase the antiviral activity of the CHR peptides. Here, we developed a novel and simple strategy to greatly enhance the potency of the existing peptide-based HIV fusion inhibitors. First, we identified a shallow pocket adjacent to the groove in the N-terminal region of NHR trimer as a new drug target, and then we designed several short artificial peptides to fit this target. After the addition of IDL (Ile-Asp-Leu) to the C terminus of CHR peptide WQ or MT-WQ, the conjugated peptides, WQ-IDL and MT-WQ-IDL, showed much more potent activities than WQ and T20, respectively, in inhibiting HIV-1 IIIB infection. WQ-IDL and MT-WQ-IDL were also more effective than WQ in blocking HIV-1 Env-mediated membrane fusion and had higher levels of binding affinity with NHR peptide N46. We solved the crystal structure of the 6-HB formed by MT-WQ-IDL and N46 and found that, besides the N-terminal MT hook tail, the IDL tail anchor of MT-WQ-IDL also binds with the shallow hydrophobic pocket outside the groove of the NHR trimer, resulting in enhanced inhibition of HIV-1 fusion with the target cell. It is expected that this novel approach can be widely used to improve the potency of peptidic fusion inhibitors against other enveloped viruses with class I fusion proteins.

IMPORTANCE
The hydrophobic groove of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) gp41 NHR trimer has been known as the classic drug target to develop fusion inhibitors derived from the gp41 CHR. Here, we developed a novel and simple strategy to improve the existing peptide-based HIV fusion inhibitors. We identified a shallow pocket adjacent to the groove in the NHR trimer and added a short artificial peptide consisting of three amino acids (IDL) to the C terminus of a fusion inhibitor to fit this new target. The inhibition activity of this new conjugated peptide was significantly enhanced, by 77-fold, making it much more potent than T20 (enfuvirtide) and suggesting that the IDL tail can be adopted for optimizing existing HIV-1 CHR peptide fusion inhibitors. This new approach of identifying a potential binding pocket outside the traditional target and creating an artificial tail anchor can be widely applied to design novel fusion inhibitors against other class I enveloped viruses, such as Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

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