Computational Study of the Resistance Shown by the Subtype B/HIV-1 Protease to Currently Known Inhibitors

Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 protease (HIV-1 PR) is an essential enzyme in the HIV-1 life cycle. As such, this protein represents a major drug target in AIDS therapy, but emerging resistance to antiretroviral inhibitor cocktails, caused by high viral mutation rates, represents a significant challenge in AIDS treatment. Many mutations are not located within the active site or binding pocket, nor they do significantly modify the three-dimensional structural organization of the enzyme; hence, the mechanism(s) by which they alter inhibitor affinity for the protease remains uncertain. In this article, we present an all-atom computational analysis of the dynamic residue−residue coordination between the active site residues and the rest of the protein and of the energetic properties of different HIV-1 PR complexes. We analyze both the wild-type form and mutated forms that induce drug resistance. In particular, the results show differences between the wild type and the mutants in their mechanism of dynamic coordination, in the signal propagation between the active site residues and the rest of the protein, and in the energy networks responsible for the stabilization of the bound inhibitor conformation. Finally, we propose a dynamic and energetic explanation for HIV-1 protease drug resistance, and, through this model, we identify a possible new site that could be helpful in the design of a new family of HIV-1 PR allosteric inhibitors.