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Biochemistry. 2003 Jul 8;42(26):8035-46.

Proflavine acts as a Rev inhibitor by targeting the high-affinity Rev binding site of the Rev responsive element of HIV-1.

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  • 1Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute and the National Institute for Standards and Technology, 9600 Gudelsky Drive, Rockville, Maryland 20850, USA.


Rev is an essential regulatory HIV-1 protein that binds the Rev responsive element (RRE) within the env gene of the HIV-1 RNA genome, activating the switch between viral latency and active viral replication. Previously, we have shown that selective incorporation of the fluorescent probe 2-aminopurine (2-AP) into a truncated form of the RRE sequence (RRE-IIB) allowed the binding of an arginine-rich peptide derived from Rev and aminoglycosides to be characterized directly by fluorescence methods. Using these fluorescence and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methods, proflavine has been identified, through a limited screen of selected small heterocyclic compounds, as a specific and high-affinity RRE-IIB binder which inhibits the interaction of the Rev peptide with RRE-IIB. Direct and competitive 2-AP fluorescence binding assays reveal that there are at least two classes of proflavine binding sites on RRE-IIB: a high-affinity site that competes with the Rev peptide for binding to RRE-IIB (K(D) approximately 0.1 +/- 0.05 microM) and a weaker binding site(s) (K(D) approximately 1.1 +/- 0.05 microM). Titrations of RRE-IIB with proflavine, monitored using (1)H NMR, demonstrate that the high-affinity proflavine binding interaction occurs with a 2:1 (proflavine:RRE-IIB) stoichiometry, and NOEs observed in the NOESY spectrum of the 2:1 proflavine.RRE-IIB complex indicate that the two proflavine molecules bind specifically and close to each other within a single binding site. NOESY data further indicate that formation of the 2:1 proflavine.RRE-IIB complex stabilizes base pairing and stacking within the internal purine-rich bulge of RRE-IIB in a manner analogous to what has been observed in the Rev peptide.RRE-IIB complex. The observation that proflavine competes with Rev for binding to RRE-IIB by binding as a dimer to a single high-affinity site opens the possibility for rational drug design based on linking and modifying it and related compounds.

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