The emergence of multidrug-resistant viruses compromises the efficacy of anti-human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) therapy and limits treatment options. Therefore, new targets that can be used to develop novel antiviral agents need to be identified. We previously identified a potential parent compound, hematoxylin, which suppresses the nuclear import of HIV-1 via the Vpr-importin α interaction and inhibits HIV-1 replication in a Vprdependent manner by blocking nuclear import of the pre-integration complex. However, it was unstable. Here, we synthesized a stable derivative of hematoxylin that bound specifically and stably to Vpr and inhibited HIV-1 replication in macrophages. Furthermore, like hematoxylin, the derivative inhibited nuclear import of Vpr in an in vitro nuclear import assay, but had no effect on Vpr-induced G2/M phase cell cycle arrest or caspase activity. Interestingly, this derivative bound strongly to amino acid residues 54-74 within the C-terminal α-helical domain (αH3) of Vpr. These residues are highly conserved among different HIV strains, indicating that this region is a potential target for drug-resistant HIV-1 infection. Thus, we succeeded in developing a stable hematoxylin derivative that bound directly to Vpr, suggesting that specific inhibitors of the interaction between cells and viral accessory proteins may provide a new strategy for the treatment of HIV-1 infection.
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