One of the most serious side effects associated with the therapy of HIV-1 infection is the appearance of viral strains that exhibit resistance to protease inhibitors. At the molecular level, resistance to protease inhibition predominantly takes the form of mutations within the protease molecule that preferentially lower the affinity of protease inhibitors with respect to protease substrates, while still maintaining a viable catalytic activity. Mutations associated with drug resistance occur within the active site cavity as well as distal sites. Active site mutations affect directly inhibitor / protease interactions while non-active site mutations affect inhibitor binding through long range cooperative perturbations. The effects of mutations associated with drug resistance are compounded by the presence of naturally occurring polymorphisms, especially those observed in non-B subtypes of HIV-1. The binding thermodynamics of all clinical inhibitors against the wild type protease, drug resistant mutations and non-B subtype HIV-1 proteases has been determined by high sensitivity isothermal titration calorimetry. In conjunction with structural information, these data have provided a precise characterization of the binding mechanism of different inhibitors and their response to mutations. Inhibitors that exhibit extremely high affinity and low susceptibility to the effects of mutations share common features and binding determinants even if they belong to different chemical scaffolds. These binding determinants define a set of rules and constraints for the design of better HIV-1 protease inhibitors.
Keywords: hiv-1 protease, drug resistance, aids, binding thermodynamics, enzyme inhibition, adaptive inhibitors, isothermal titration calorimetry
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