Peptides derived from HIV-1 Vif: A non-substrate based novel type of HIV-1 protease inhibitors

Assaf Friedler, Immanuel Blumenzweig, Lea Baraz, Michael Steinitz, Moshe Kotler, Chaim Gilon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The retroviral protease (PR) is absolutely essential for completion of human immunodeficiency virus multiplication cycle, and cannot be replaced by any cellular function. Thus PR, like reverse transcriptase, is an ideal target for the development of anti-AIDS therapy. A large number of human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) PR inhibitors have been developed, and several are currently used as anti-AIDS drugs. These inhibitors are mainly based on the natural PR cleavage sites within the viral Gag and Gag-Pol precursors. The major difficulty encountered while using anti-HIV therapeutic agents in patients has been the rapid emergence of drug-resistant viral strains. Most of the mutations which convert the PR into inhibitor-resistant are located within the substrate binding subsites of the enzyme. Recently, it has been shown that the HIV-1 auxiliary protein Vif, and especially the N-terminal half of Vif (N'-Vif) specifically interacts with the viral PR and inhibits its activity. We now show that efficient inhibition of HIV-1 PR activity can be achieved using Vif-derived peptides. Based on the above model we have performed peptide mapping of N'-Vif in order to find a small peptidic lead compound which inhibits PR activity. The screening revealed that peptides derived from two regions in Vif spanning from residues 30-65 and 78-98 inhibit PR activity in vitro, specifically bind HIV-PR and inhibit HIV-1 production in vivo. Further mapping of these regions revealed the lead compounds Vif81-88 and Vif88-98. These peptides specifically inhibit and bind HIV-1 PR, but do not affect pepsin and rous sarcoma virus protease. In contrast to other known PR inhibitors, these peptides are not substrate-based and their sequences do not resemble the sequences of the natural PR substrates (cleavage sites). Moreover, the Vif-derived peptides themselves are not cleaved by HIV-1 PR. Conversion of the lead peptides into small backbone cyclic peptidomimetics is taking place nowadays in order to turn these lead compounds into metabolically stable selective novel type of HIV-PR non-substrate-based inhibitors.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)93-101
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 19 Mar 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
A part of this work was carried out in the Peter A. Krueger Laboratory with the generous support of Nancy and Lawrence Glick, and Pat and Marvin Weiss. We thank Roche Products Ltd. for the Ro 31–8959, Dr Alex Levine for the use of the fluorimeter and Ms Josefine Silfen for peptide synthesis. This work was supported by grants from the Israeli Science Foundation and from Horowitz investment fund.


  • Aspartic protease inhibitor
  • HIV-1
  • HIV-PR
  • Peptide mapping
  • Vif


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