Structural basis for strand-transfer inhibitor binding to HIV intasomes

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Science  14 Feb 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6479, pp. 810-814
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay8015

Strengths and weaknesses of an HIV drug

Retroviruses replicate by inserting a copy of their RNA, which has been reverse transcribed into DNA, into the host genome. This process involves the intasome, a nucleoprotein complex comprising copies of the viral integrase bound at the ends of the viral DNA. HIV integrase strand-transfer inhibitors (INSTIs) stop HIV from replicating by blocking the viral integrase and are widely used in HIV treatment. Cook et al. describe structures of second-generation inhibitors bound to the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) intasome and to an intasome with integrase mutations known to cause drug resistance. Passos et al. describe the structures of the HIV intasome bound to a second-generation inhibitor and to developmental compounds that are promising drug leads. These structures show how mutations can cause subtle changes in the active site that affect drug binding, show the basis for the higher activity of later-generation inhibitors, and may guide development of better drugs.

Science, this issue p. 806, p. 810


The HIV intasome is a large nucleoprotein assembly that mediates the integration of a DNA copy of the viral genome into host chromatin. Intasomes are targeted by the latest generation of antiretroviral drugs, integrase strand-transfer inhibitors (INSTIs). Challenges associated with lentiviral intasome biochemistry have hindered high-resolution structural studies of how INSTIs bind to their native drug target. Here, we present high-resolution cryo–electron microscopy structures of HIV intasomes bound to the latest generation of INSTIs. These structures highlight how small changes in the integrase active site can have notable implications for drug binding and design and provide mechanistic insights into why a leading INSTI retains efficacy against a broad spectrum of drug-resistant variants. The data have implications for expanding effective treatments available for HIV-infected individuals.

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