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The Mechanism of Action of Hepatitis B Virus Capsid Assembly Modulators Can Be Predicted from Binding to Early Assembly Intermediates

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posted on 15.03.2022, 17:05 by Anna Pavlova, Leda Bassit, Bryan D. Cox, Maksym Korablyov, Christophe Chipot, Dharmeshkumar Patel, Diane L. Lynch, Franck Amblard, Raymond F. Schinazi, James C. Gumbart
Interfering with the self-assembly of virus nucleocapsids is a promising approach for the development of novel antiviral agents. Applied to hepatitis B virus (HBV), this approach has led to several classes of capsid assembly modulators (CAMs) that target the virus by either accelerating nucleocapsid assembly or misdirecting it into noncapsid-like particles, thereby inhibiting the HBV replication cycle. Here, we have assessed the structures of early nucleocapsid assembly intermediates, bound with and without CAMs, using molecular dynamics simulations. We find that distinct conformations of the intermediates are induced depending on whether the bound CAM accelerates or misdirects assembly. Specifically, the assembly intermediates with bound misdirecting CAMs appear to be flattened relative to those with bound accelerators. Finally, the potency of CAMs within the same class was studied. We find that an increased number of contacts with the capsid protein and favorable binding energies inferred from free energy perturbation calculations are indicative of increased potency.