alexa Inhibiting viral proteases: challenges and opportunities.


Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals

Author(s): Bianchi E, Pessi A

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Abstract Inhibitor design against viral targets must take into account the peculiar characteristics of viral biology-in particular, the plasticity of their replicative machinery. This includes maturational cleavage of the polyprotein, which is mediated by virally encoded proteases. Designing against a movable target is particularly challenging, but at the same time it offers new opportunities. Here we describe our experience with the NS3/4A (NS: nonstructural) serine protease of human hepatitis C virus (HCV). By extensive use of combinatorial peptide libraries, various inhibitor types were generated, including product inhibitors, serine traps, P-P' inhibitors, and prime side inhibitors. The latter represent a first case for a serine protease. A key finding, derived from structural studies utilizing these inhibitors, was that NS3 is an induced-fit protease, requiring both the NS4A cofactor protein and the substrate to fully activate its catalytic machinery. In the absence of cofactor and/or substrate, NS3 exists in solution as a large conformational ensemble, which can be matched by a correspondingly large set of peptide inhibitors, each one stabilizing a given conformer. In the perspective of inhibiting viral proteases in general, we suggest that combinatorial ligand ensembles may be a powerful tool, to contrast the adaptive potential of the viral quasispecies. Copyright 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers (Pept Sci) 66: 101-114, 2002 This article was published in Biopolymers and referenced in Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals

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