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J Virol. 2006 Jun;80(12):5716-22.

3-O-(3',3'-dimethysuccinyl) betulinic acid inhibits maturation of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 Gag precursor assembled in vitro.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK 73104, USA.


3-O-(3',3'-Dimethysuccinyl) betulinic acid (PA-457) has been shown to potently inhibit human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) replication in culture. In contrast to inhibitors that act upon the viral proteinase, PA-457 appears to block only the final maturational cleavage of p25CA-p2 to p24CA. However, attempts to replicate this effect in vitro using recombinant Gag have failed, leading to the hypothesis that activity is dependent upon the assembly state of Gag. Using a synthesis/assembly system for chimeric HIV type 1 Gag proteins, we have replicated the activity of PA-457 in vitro. The processing of assembled chimeric Gag can be inhibited by the addition of drug with only the final cleavage of p25CA-p2 to p24CA blocked. Consistent with our hypothesis and with previous findings, inhibition appears specific to Gag assembled into an immature capsid-like structure, since synthetic Gag that remains unassembled is properly processed in the presence of the compound. To further analyze the authenticity of the assay, PA-457 was tested in parallel with its inactive parental compound, betulinic acid. Betulinic acid had no effect upon p25 processing in this system. Analysis of a PA-457-resistant mutant, A1V, in this system pointed to more rapid cleavage as a possible mechanism for resistance. However, characterization of additional mutations at the cleavage site and in p2 suggests that resistance does not strictly correlate with the rate of cleavage. With the establishment of an in vitro assay for the detection of PA-457 activity, a more detailed characterization of its mechanism of action will be possible.

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