Next generation of antiretroviral agents targeting the RNA binding site of the HIV-1 cellular cofactor DDX3: an innovative therapeutic approach
- Introduction: Efficacy of currently approved anti-HIV drugs is hampered by mutations of the viral enzymes, leading invariably to drug resistance and chemotherapy failure. Recent data suggest that cellular co-factors also represent useful targets for anti-HIV therapy. We have recently provided evidence for the possibility to block HIV-1 replication by targeting its cellular cofactor DDX3.
Material and methods: Molecular modeling and in silico technologies were applied to rationally design small molecules specifically targeting the RNA binding site of human DDX3. Biochemical studies of mutated DDX3 enzymes were also used to identify additional potential drug binding sites.
Optimization of compounds identified by application of a high-throughput docking approach afforded a promising lead compound which proved to inhibit both the helicase and ATPase activity of DDX3 and to reduce the viral load of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) infected with HIV-1. A novel interaction site has been also identified in DDX3, which, when blocked, can reduce viral replication, representing an additional target for small molecules inhibitors.
Conclusions: We have identified the first inhibitors of HIV-1 replication targeting the RNA binding site of the cellular cofactor human DDX3. These compounds may offer superior selectivity over the ATP-competitive inhibitors previously developed. In addition, a novel RNA interacting motif specific to DDX3 has been identified, opening new venues for HIV-1 drug development.
A motif unique to the human DEAD-box protein DDX3 is important for nucleic acid binding, ATP hydrolysis, RNA/DNA unwinding and HIV-1 replication
Giulia Di Cicco
- DEAD-box proteins are enzymes endowed with nucleic acid-dependent ATPase, RNA translocase and unwinding activities. The human DEAD-box protein DDX3 has been shown to play important roles in tumor proliferation and viral infections. In particular, DDX3 has been identified as an essential cofactor for HIV-1 replication. Here we characterized a set of DDX3 mutants biochemically with respect to nucleic acid binding, ATPase and helicase activity. In particular, we addressed the functional role of a unique insertion between motifs I and Ia of DDX3 and provide evidence for its implication in nucleic acid binding and HIV-1 replication. We show that human DDX3 lacking this domain binds HIV-1 RNA with lower affinity. Furthermore, a specific peptide ligand for this insertion selected by phage display interferes with HIV-1 replication after transduction into HelaP4 cells. Besides broadening our understanding of the structure-function relationships of this important protein, our results identify a specific domain of DDX3 which may be suited as target for antiviral drugs designed to inhibit cellular cofactors for HIV-1 replication.
Phage display selection of HIV specific conserved mimotopes with IgG from long-term non-progressors
- Poster presentation Background The aim of this study is to identify conserved epitopes of HIV-1 neutralizing antibodies in polyclonal plasma from LTNP to finally derive vaccine candidates. Materials and methods The presence of neutralizing antibodies in 9 LTNP sera was proved by in vitro neutralization assays. Phage displayed peptide libraries were screened with LTNP IgG. HIV-specific mimotopes were analyzed for homology to the gp120 structure by a software (3DEX) especially developed for this purpose. Mice were immunized with interesting phages and their sera were analyzed for neutralizing activities against HIV-1. Results After biopannings, between 19% and 75% HIV-specific phage clones were identified by ELISA. Mimotope sequences were identified and could be aligned by 3DEX to linear or conformational epitopes on gp120. A peptide specific immune response was detected in sera of immunized mice. The first mice sera analyzed showed neutralizing activities against HIV-1. Conclusion Mimotopes could be selected from LTNP sera that represent conformational epitopes on gp120. Those ones inducing neutralizing antibodies upon immunization potentially are suited to derive vaccine candidates.
Optimization and antiviral analysis of peptide ligands for the HIV-1 packaging signal PSI
- Oral presentations Background: We selected peptide ligands for the HIV-1 packaging signal PSI by screening phage displayed peptide libraries. Peptide ligands were optimized by screening spot synthesis peptide membranes. The aim of this study is the functional characterization of these peptide ligands with respect to inhibition of HIV-1 replication. Methods: Phage displayed peptide libraries were screened with PSI-RNA structures. The Trp-rich peptide motifs were optimized for specific binding on spot synthesis peptide membranes. The best binding peptide was expressed intracellularly in fusion with RFP or linked to a protein transduction domain (PTD) for intracellular delivery. The effects on virion production were analyzed using pseudotyped lentiviral particles. Results: After positive and negative selection rounds, phages binding specifically to PSI-RNA were identified by ELISA. Peptide inserts contained conserved motifs of aromatic amino acids known to be implicated in binding of PSI-RNA by the natural Gag ligand. The filter assay identified HKWPWW as the best binding ligand for PSI-RNA, which is delivered into several cell lines by addition of a PTD. Compared to a control peptide, the HKWPWW peptide inhibited HIV-1 replication as deduced from reduced titers of culture supernatants. As HKWPWW also binds to the TAR-RNA like the natural nucleocapsid PSI-RNA ligand, the effect on Tat-TAR inhibition will also be analyzed. Currently T-cell lines are established which stably express HKWPWW as well as a control peptide, which will be infected with HIV-1 to monitor the ability of HKWPWW to inhibit wild type HIV-1 replication. Conclusion: The selection of a peptide ligand for PSI-RNA able to inhibit HIV-1 replication proves the suitability of the phage display technology for the selection of peptides binding to RNA-structures. This enables the indentification of peptides serving as leads to interfere with additional targets in the HIV-1 replication cycle.
Functional Characterization of Two scFv-Fc Antibodies from an HIV Controller Selected on Soluble HIV-1 Env Complexes: A Neutralizing V3- and a Trimer-Specific gp41 Antibody
Hagen von Briesen
- HIV neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) represent an important tool in view of prophylactic and therapeutic applications for HIV-1 infection. Patients chronically infected by HIV-1 represent a valuable source for nAbs. HIV controllers, including long-term non-progressors (LTNP) and elite controllers (EC), represent an interesting subgroup in this regard, as here nAbs can develop over time in a rather healthy immune system and in the absence of any therapeutic selection pressure. In this study, we characterized two particular antibodies that were selected as scFv antibody fragments from a phage immune library generated from an LTNP with HIV neutralizing antibodies in his plasma. The phage library was screened on recombinant soluble gp140 envelope (Env) proteins. Sequencing the selected peptide inserts revealed two major classes of antibody sequences. Binding analysis of the corresponding scFv-Fc derivatives to various trimeric and monomeric Env constructs as well as to peptide arrays showed that one class, represented by monoclonal antibody (mAb) A2, specifically recognizes an epitope localized in the pocket binding domain of the C heptad repeat (CHR) in the ectodomain of gp41, but only in the trimeric context. Thus, this antibody represents an interesting tool for trimer identification. MAb A7, representing the second class, binds to structural elements of the third variable loop V3 and neutralizes tier 1 and tier 2 HIV-1 isolates of different subtypes with matching critical amino acids in the linear epitope sequence. In conclusion, HIV controllers are a valuable source for the selection of functionally interesting antibodies that can be selected on soluble gp140 proteins with properties from the native envelope spike.
Novel phylogenetic algorithm to monitor human tropism in Egyptian H5N1-HPAIV reveals evolution toward efficient human-to-human transmission
Vladimir R. Perovic
Claude P. Muller
Henry L. Niman
Dusan D. Tosic
- Years of endemic infections with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A subtype H5N1 virus in poultry and high numbers of infections in humans provide ample opportunity in Egypt for H5N1-HPAIV to develop pandemic potential. In an effort to better understand the viral determinants that facilitate human infections of the Egyptian H5N1-HPAIVvirus, we developed a new phylogenetic algorithm based on a new distance measure derived from the informational spectrum method (ISM). This new approach, which describes functional aspects of the evolution of the hemagglutinin subunit 1 (HA1), revealed a growing group G2 of H5N1-HPAIV in Egypt after 2009 that acquired new informational spectrum (IS) properties suggestive of an increased human tropism and pandemic potential. While in 2006 all viruses in Egypt belonged to the G1 group, by 2011 these viruses were virtually replaced by G2 viruses. All of the G2 viruses displayed four characteristic mutations (D43N, S120(D,N), (S,L)129Δ and I151T), three of which were previously reported to increase binding to the human receptor. Already in 2006–2008 G2 viruses were significantly (p<0.02) more often found in humans than expected from their overall prevalence and this further increased in 2009–2011 (p<0.007). Our approach also identified viruses that acquired additional mutations that we predict to further enhance their human tropism. The extensive evolution of Egyptian H5N1-HPAIV towards a preferential human tropism underlines an urgent need to closely monitor these viruses with respect to molecular determinants of virulence.