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Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2010 Oct;17(10):1202-9. doi: 10.1038/nsmb.1908. Epub 2010 Sep 19.

Structural basis of HIV-1 resistance to AZT by excision.

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  • 1Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) develops resistance to 3'-azido-2',3'-deoxythymidine (AZT, zidovudine) by acquiring mutations in reverse transcriptase that enhance the ATP-mediated excision of AZT monophosphate from the 3' end of the primer. The excision reaction occurs at the dNTP-binding site, uses ATP as a pyrophosphate donor, unblocks the primer terminus and allows reverse transcriptase to continue viral DNA synthesis. The excision product is AZT adenosine dinucleoside tetraphosphate (AZTppppA). We determined five crystal structures: wild-type reverse transcriptase-double-stranded DNA (RT-dsDNA)-AZTppppA; AZT-resistant (AZTr; M41L D67N K70R T215Y K219Q) RT-dsDNA-AZTppppA; AZTr RT-dsDNA terminated with AZT at dNTP- and primer-binding sites; and AZTr apo reverse transcriptase. The AMP part of AZTppppA bound differently to wild-type and AZTr reverse transcriptases, whereas the AZT triphosphate part bound the two enzymes similarly. Thus, the resistance mutations create a high-affinity ATP-binding site. The structure of the site provides an opportunity to design inhibitors of AZT-monophosphate excision.

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