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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2005 Sep;49(9):3825-32.

Molecular basis for increased susceptibility of isolates with atazanavir resistance-conferring substitution I50L to other protease inhibitors.

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Gene Expression and Protein Biochemistry Department, Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute, Princeton, NJ 08543-4000, USA.


Protease inhibitors (PIs) are highly effective drugs against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), yet long-term therapeutic use is limited by emergence of HIV type 1 (HIV-1) protease substitutions that confer cross-resistance to multiple protease inhibitor drugs. Atazanavir is a highly potent HIV protease inhibitor with a distinct resistance profile that includes effectiveness against most HIV-1 isolates resistant to one or two PIs. The signature resistance substitution for atazanavir is I50L, and it is frequently (53%) accompanied by a compensatory A71V substitution that helps restore viability and increases atazanavir resistance levels. We measured the binding affinities of wild-type (WT) and I50L/A71V HIV-1 proteases to atazanavir and other currently approved PIs (ritonavir, lopinavir, saquinavir, nelfinavir, indinavir, and amprenavir) by isothermal titration calorimetry. Remarkably, we find that all of the PIs have 2- to 10-fold increased affinities for I50L/A71V protease, except for atazanavir. The results are also manifested by thermal stability measures of affinity for WT and I50L/A71V proteases. Additional biophysical and enzyme kinetics experiments show I50L/A71V protease is a stable enzyme with catalytic activity that is slightly reduced (34%) relative to the WT. Computational modeling reveals that the unique resistance phenotype of I50L/A71V protease likely originates from bulky tert-butyl groups at P2 and P2' (specific to atazanavir) that sterically clash with methyl groups on residue L50. The results of this study provide a molecular understanding of the novel hypersusceptibility of atazanavir-resistant I50L/A71V-containing clinical isolates to other currently approved PIs.

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