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FASEB J. 2011 Apr;25(4):1230-43. doi: 10.1096/fj.10-167627. Epub 2011 Jan 3.

Molecular engineering of RANTES peptide mimetics with potent anti-HIV-1 activity.

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  • 1Unit of Human Virology, Department of Biological and Technological Research (DIBIT), San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy. plusso@niaid.nih.gov


The chemokine receptor CCR5 is utilized as a critical coreceptor by most primary HIV-1 strains. While the lack of structural information on CCR5 has hampered the rational design of specific inhibitors, mimetics of the chemokines that naturally bind CCR5 can be molecularly engineered. We used a structure-guided approach to design peptide mimetics of the N-loop and β1-strand regions of regulated on activation normal T-cell-expressed and secreted (RANTES)/CCL5, which contain the primary molecular determinants of HIV-1 blockade. Rational modifications were sequentially introduced into the N-loop/β1-strand sequence, leading to the generation of mimetics with potent activity against a broad spectrum of CCR5-specific HIV-1 isolates (IC(50) range: 104-640 nM) but lacking activity against CXCR4-specific HIV-1 isolates. Functional enhancement was initially achieved with the stabilization of the N loop in the β-extended conformation adopted in full-length RANTES, as confirmed by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analysis. However, the most dramatic increase in antiviral potency resulted from the engraftment of an in silico-optimized linker segment designed using de novo structure-prediction algorithms to stabilize the C-terminal α-helix and experimentally validated by NMR. Our mimetics exerted CCR5-antagonistic effects, demonstrating that the antiviral and proinflammatory functions of RANTES can be uncoupled. RANTES peptide mimetics provide new leads for the development of safe and effective HIV-1 entry inhibitors.

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