The Pol protein of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) harbours the viral enzymes critical for viral replication; protease (PR), reverse transcriptase (RT), and integrase (IN). PR, RT and IN are not functional in their monomeric forms and must come together as either dimers (PR), heterodimers (RT) or tetramers (IN) to be catalytically active. Our knowledge of the tertiary structures of the functional enzymes is well advanced, and substantial progress has recently been made towards understanding the precise steps leading from Pol protein synthesis through viral assembly to the release of active viral enzymes. This review will summarise our current understanding of how the Pol proteins, which are initially expressed as a Gag-Pol fusion product, are packaged into the assembling virion and discuss the maturation process that results in the release of the viral enzymes in their active forms. Our discussion will focus on the relationship between structure and function for each of the viral enzymes. This review will also provide an overview of the current status of inhibitors against the HIV-1 Pol proteins. Effective inhibitors of PR and RT are well established and we will discuss the next generation inhibitors of these enzymes as well recent investigations that have highlighted the potential of IN and RNase H as antiretroviral targets.
Keywords: gag-pol, hiv-1, protease, reverse transcriptase, integrase
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