One of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) envelope proteins, gp41, plays a key role in HIV fusion. A gp41-derived peptide, T-20, efficiently inhibits HIV fusion and is currently approved for treatment of HIV-infected individuals. Although resistant variants have been reported, the mechanism of the resistance remains to be defined. To elucidate the mechanism in detail, we generated variants resistant to C34, a peptide derived from the gp41 carboxyl terminus heptad repeat (C-HR) in vitro. The resistant variants had a 5-amino-acid deletion in gp120 and a total of seven amino acid substitutions in gp41. Binding assays revealed that an I37K substitution in the N-terminal heptad repeat (N-HR) impaired the binding of C34, whereas an N126K. substitution in the C-HR enhanced the binding to mutated N-HR, indicating that both mutations were directly involved in resistance. On the other hand, substitutions for A30 and D36 seemed to be secondary mutations, located complementary to each other in the Rev-responsive element (RRE), and were mutated simultaneously to maintain the secondary structure of the RRE that was impaired by the mutations at I37. Thus, HIV acquired resistance to C34 by mutations in N-HR, which directly interacted with C34. However, since this region also encoded the RRE, additional mutations were required to maintain viral replication. These results suggest that HIV fusion is one of the attractive targets for HIV chemotherapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas