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Antiviral Res. 2012 Aug;95(2):93-103. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2012.05.012. Epub 2012 Jun 1.

Understanding the molecular mechanism of sequence dependent tenofovir removal by HIV-1 reverse transcriptase: differences in primer binding site versus polypurine tract.

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Department of Pharmacology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Tenofovir (TFV) is a nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NtRTI) that is often administered as first-line therapy against human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) infection and acts as a chain terminator when incorporated into viral DNA. However, HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) excises TFV in the presence of either ATP or pyrophosphate, which is an important drug resistance mechanism that would interfere with the effective treatment. Previous studies have shown conflicting results on excision efficiencies for TFV-terminated primer-templates derived from either primer binding site (PBS) or polypurine tract (PPT) sequences. To provide mechanistic insight into the variation in TFV removal from both sequences that are vital for the HIV-1 life cycle, we compared the efficiencies of removal reaction in response to sequence dependence via utilizing blocked PBS and PPT primer-templates. We found an enhanced TFV excision with PPT sequence over PBS sequence through ATP-mediated removal and a subsequent incorporation of ATP into the unblocked primers. Furthermore, the rate of pyrophosphorolytic excision of TFV from PPT sequence was 21-fold higher than that for the PBS sequence. However, the addition of efavirenz, nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI), to the removal reaction effectively inhibits the TFV excision from both primers by forming a stable complex that would leave TFV inaccessible for excision. These results illuminate the degree of primer-template sequence contribution on TFV removal as well as increase our understanding of the molecular mechanism for the beneficial effects of widely used combinations of antiretroviral regimens in the context of synergistic antiviral activity and drug resistance.

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