Replication of human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) uses a viral reverse transcriptase (RT) to convert its positive-strand RNA into double stranded DNA, which is then integrated into host genome. Reverse transcription is a complex event involving p66 and p51 RT subunits but also several viral proteins including Nef, Tat, Vif, IN, NCp7 and p55gag. Viral RNA itself forms a primer / template complex by association with a cellular tRNALys3 which is already present in mature virions. A RT initiation complex (RTIC) is thus formed which may also involve cellular protein upon viral entry. X rays diffraction and NMR studies of free or inhibitor-bound RT have led to the recognition of RT 3D structure, and allowed a thorough understanding of the mode of action of classical competitive nucleoside RT inhibitors (NRTIs) and of the binding of allosteric, non NRTIs (NNRTIs) inhibitors. This also opened an access to computer-aided drug design and modeling. Current NNRTIs represent, in terms of chemical structures, a heterogeneous class of inhibitors currently undergoing extensive development. By contrast with NRTIs, they seem to block initiation steps of reverse transcription. Molecular dynamics, detailed analysis of their interaction with RT as well as the incidence, in the series, of cases of non classical biological behavior, as illustrated here for a new family of compounds, suggest mechanisms of action which are not understandable without considering the involvement of the RTIC as a whole. This opens the exciting perspective of developing new compounds based on this integrated knowledge.
Keywords: nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (nnrtis), reverse transcriptase initiation complex (rtic), human immunodeficiency virus (hiv), non classical nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, molecular modeling, docking, qsar, natural endogenous reverse transcription (nert)
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