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Chembiochem. 2009 Aug 17;10(12):2072-80. doi: 10.1002/cbic.200900303.

Identification of flavopiridol analogues that selectively inhibit positive transcription elongation factor (P-TEFb) and block HIV-1 replication.

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Chemical Biology Program, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605 (USA).


The positive transcription elongation factor (P-TEFb; CDK9/cyclin T1) regulates RNA polymerase II-dependent transcription of cellular and integrated viral genes. It is an essential cofactor for HIV-1 Tat transactivation, and selective inhibition of P-TEFb blocks HIV-1 replication without affecting cellular transcription; this indicates that P-TEFb could be a potential target for developing anti-HIV-1 therapeutics. Flavopiridol, a small molecule CDK inhibitor, blocks HIV-1 Tat transactivation and viral replication by inhibiting P-TEFb kinase activity, but it is highly cytotoxic. In the search for selective and less cytotoxic P-TEFb inhibitors, we prepared a series of flavopiridol analogues and evaluated their kinase inhibitory activity against P-TEFb and CDK2/cyclin A, and tested their cellular antiviral potency and cytotoxicity. We identified several analogues that selectively inhibit P-TEFb kinase activity in vitro and show antiviral potency comparable to that of flavopiridol, but with significantly reduced cytotoxicity. These compounds are valuable molecular probes for understanding P-TEFb-regulated cellular and HIV-1 gene transcription and provide potential anti-HIV-1 therapeutics.

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