Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) are widely used in combination therapies against HIV-1. However, emergent and transmitted drug resistance compromise their efficacy in the clinical setting. Y181C is selected in patients receiving nevirapine, etravirine and rilpivirine, and together with K103N is the most prevalent NNRTI-associated mutation in HIV-infected patients. Herein, we report on the design, synthesis and biological evaluation of a novel series of indolylarylsulfones bearing acrylamide or ethylene sulfonamide reactive groups as warheads to inactivate Cys181-containing HIV-1 RT via a Michael addition reaction. Compounds I-7 and I-9 demonstrated higher selectivity towards the Y181C mutant than against the wild-type RT, in nucleotide incorporation inhibition assays. The larger size of the NNRTI binding pocket in the mutant enzyme facilitates a better fit for the active compounds, while stacking interactions with Phe227 and Pro236 contribute to inhibitor binding. Mass spectrometry data were consistent with the covalent modification of the RT, although off-target reactivity constitutes a major limitation for further development of the described inhibitors.
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