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Inhibiting HTLV‑1 Protease: A Viable Antiviral Target

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journal contribution
posted on 23.02.2021, 12:34 by Gordon J. Lockbaum, Mina Henes, Nathaniel Talledge, Linah N. Rusere, Klajdi Kosovrasti, Ellen A. Nalivaika, Mohan Somasundaran, Akbar Ali, Louis M. Mansky, Nese Kurt Yilmaz, Celia A. Schiffer
Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is a retrovirus that can cause severe paralytic neurologic disease and immune disorders as well as cancer. An estimated 20 million people worldwide are infected with HTLV-1, with prevalence reaching 30% in some parts of the world. In stark contrast to HIV-1, no direct acting antivirals (DAAs) exist against HTLV-1. The aspartyl protease of HTLV-1 is a dimer similar to that of HIV-1 and processes the viral polyprotein to permit viral maturation. We report that the FDA-approved HIV-1 protease inhibitor darunavir (DRV) inhibits the enzyme with 0.8 μM potency and provides a scaffold for drug design against HTLV-1. Analogs of DRV that we designed and synthesized achieved submicromolar inhibition against HTLV-1 protease and inhibited Gag processing in viral maturation assays and in a chronically HTLV-1 infected cell line. Cocrystal structures of these inhibitors with HTLV-1 protease highlight opportunities for future inhibitor design. Our results show promise toward developing highly potent HTLV-1 protease inhibitors as therapeutic agents against HTLV-1 infections.