European journal of medicinal chemistry 2016 05 13121() 232-7 doi 10.1016/j.ejmech.2016.05.027
Enfuvirtide (ENF) is a clinically used peptide drug for the treatment of HIV infections, but its poor pharmacokinetic profile (T1/2 = 1.5 h in rats) and low aqueous solubility make the therapy expensive and inconvenience. In this study, we present a simple and practical strategy to address these problems by conjugating ENF with polyethylene glycol (PEG). Site-specific attachment of a 2 kDa PEG at the N-terminus of ENF resulted in an ENF-PEG (EP) conjugate with high solubility (≥3 mg/mL) and long half-life in rats (T1/2 = 16.1 h). This conjugate showed similar antiviral activity to ENF against various primary HIV-1 isolates (EC50 = 6-91 nM). Mechanistic studies suggested the sources of the antiviral potency. The conjugate bound to a functional domain of the HIV gp41 protein in a helical conformation with high affinity (Kd = 307 nM), thereby inhibiting the gp41-mediated fusion of viral and host-cell membranes. As PEG conjugation has advanced many bioactive proteins and peptides into clinical applications, the EP conjugate described here represents a potential new treatment for HIV infections that may address the unmet medical needs associated with the current ENF therapy.