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J Virol. 2010 May;84(10):5238-49. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01545-09. Epub 2010 Mar 10.

A novel molecular mechanism of dual resistance to nucleoside and nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors.

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Viral Mutation Section, HIV Drug Resistance Program, National Cancer Institute at Frederick, Frederick, Maryland 21702, USA.


Recently, mutations in the connection subdomain (CN) and RNase H domain of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) were observed to exhibit dual resistance to nucleoside and nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs and NNRTIs). To elucidate the mechanism by which CN and RH mutations confer resistance to NNRTIs, we hypothesized that these mutations reduce RNase H cleavage and provide more time for the NNRTI to dissociate from the RT, resulting in the resumption of DNA synthesis and enhanced NNRTI resistance. We observed that the effect of the reduction in RNase H cleavage on NNRTI resistance is dependent upon the affinity of each NNRTI to the RT and further influenced by the presence of NNRTI-binding pocket (BP) mutants. D549N, Q475A, and Y501A mutants, which reduce RNase H cleavage, enhance resistance to nevirapine (NVP) and delavirdine (DLV), but not to efavirenz (EFV) and etravirine (ETR), consistent with their increase in affinity for RT. Combining the D549N mutant with NNRTI BP mutants further increases NNRTI resistance from 3- to 30-fold, supporting the role of NNRTI-RT affinity in our NNRTI resistance model. We also demonstrated that CNs from treatment-experienced patients, previously reported to enhance NRTI resistance, also reduce RNase H cleavage and enhance NNRTI resistance in the context of the patient RT pol domain or a wild-type pol domain. Together, these results confirm key predictions of our NNRTI resistance model and provide support for a unifying mechanism by which CN and RH mutations can exhibit dual NRTI and NNRTI resistance.

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