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Antiviral Res. 2011 Sep;91(3):292-5. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2011.07.001. Epub 2011 Jul 8.

The new and less toxic protease inhibitor saquinavir-NO maintains anti-HIV-1 properties in vitro indistinguishable from those of the parental compound saquinavir.

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Laboratory of Virology and Microbiology, University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan, Italy.


Although, the antiviral activity, tolerability and convenience of protease inhibitors have improved significantly in recent years, toxicity-associated adverse events including diarrhea, lipid alterations, disturbance of glucose homeostasis and liver enzyme elevations still remain a major concern during treatment of HIV-1 patients. We have recently shown that the covalent attachment of the NO moiety to the HIV-1 protease inhibitor saquinavir (Saq-NO) reduces its toxicity. In this study, we evaluated in vitro the anti-HIV activity of Saq-NO vs. its parental compound Saq. Site directed mutants with the most frequently identified Saq associated resistance mutations and their combinations were generated on proviral AD8-based backbones. Phenotypic assays were conducted using wild type clinical isolates and fully replicating recombinant viruses with Saq and Saq-NO in parallel on purified CD4+ T cells. The following recombinant viruses were generated and tested: L33F, M46I, G48V, I54V, I84V + L90M, M46I + L90M, G48V + L90M, M46I + I54V + L90M, L33F + M46I + L90M. The fold change resistance compared to the wild type viruses was between 1.3 and 7 for all single mutants, between 3.4 and 20 for double mutants and between 16.7 and 28.5 for viruses carrying three mutations for both compounds. The results clearly demonstrate that Saq-NO maintains an anti-HIV-1 profile very similar to that of Saq. The possibility to reduce Saq associated side effects and to increase the concentration of the drug in vivo may allow a higher and possibly more effective dosage of Saq-NO in HIV-1-infected patients and to increase the genetic barrier of this PI thus impairing the selection of resistant clones.

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