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Biochemistry. 2005 Feb 8;44(5):1595-606.

Dissecting the effects of DNA polymerase and ribonuclease H inhibitor combinations on HIV-1 reverse-transcriptase activities.

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Department of Antiviral Research, Merck Research Laboratories, West Point, Pennsylvania 19486-0004, USA.


Although HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) DNA polymerase and ribonuclease H (RNase H) activities reside in spatially distinct domains of the enzyme, inhibitors that bind in the RT polymerase domain can affect RNase H activity. We used both gel assays and a real-time FRET assay to analyze the impact of three mechanistically distinct RT polymerase inhibitors on RNase H activity in vitro. The nucleoside analogue 3'-azido-3'-deoxythymidine triphosphate (AZT-TP) had no effect, whereas the pyrophosphate analogue phosphonoformate (PFA) inhibited RNase H activity in a concentration-dependent manner. Nonnucleoside RT inhibitors (NNRTIs) enhanced RNase H catalysis, but the cleavage products differed substantially for RNA/DNA hybrid substrates of different lengths. A comparison of 61 different RT crystal structures revealed that NNRTI binding opened the angle between the polymerase and RNase H domains of the p66 subunit and reduced the relative motion of the thumb and RNase H regions, suggesting that NNRTI enhancement of RNase H cleavage may result from increased accessibility of the RNase H active site to the RNA/DNA hybrid duplex. We also examined the effects of combining a diketo acid (DKA) RNase H inhibitor with various RT polymerase inhibitors on polymerase-independent RNase H cleavage, RNA-dependent DNA polymerization, and in reverse-transcription assays. Interestingly, although the NNRTI decreased DKA potency in polymerase-independent RNase H assays, NNRTI/DKA combinations were synergistic in inhibiting reverse transcription overall, indicating that regimens incorporating both NNRTI and RNase H inhibitors may be therapeutically beneficial.

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