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Schiffer Lab publishes paper in American Society for Microbiology’s mBio

Date Posted: Monday, June 29, 2020

Ashley Matthew, former Schiffer Lab member, and members of the Schiffer Lab had a paper published in a recent issue of mBio. Read the abstract below and take the link to the full text.

Avoiding Drug Resistance by Substrate Envelope-Guided Design: Toward Potent and Robust HCV NS3/4A Protease Inhibitors

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects millions of people worldwide, causing chronic liver disease that can lead to cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and liver transplant. In the last several years, the advent of direct-acting antivirals, including NS3/4A protease inhibitors (PIs), has remarkably improved treatment outcomes of HCV-infected patients. However, selection of resistance-associated substitutions and polymorphisms among genotypes can lead to drug resistance and in some cases treatment failure. A proactive strategy to combat resistance is to constrain PIs within evolutionarily conserved regions in the protease active site. Designing PIs using the substrate envelope is a rational strategy to decrease the susceptibility to resistance by using the constraints of substrate recognition. We successfully designed two series of HCV NS3/4A PIs to leverage unexploited areas in the substrate envelope to improve potency, specifically against resistance-associated substitutions at D168. Our design strategy achieved better resistance profiles over both the FDA-approved NS3/4A PI grazoprevir and the parent compound against the clinically relevant D168A substitution. Crystallographic structural analysis and inhibition assays confirmed that optimally filling the substrate envelope is critical to improve inhibitor potency while avoiding resistance. Specifically, inhibitors that enhanced hydrophobic packing in the S4 pocket and avoided an energetically frustrated pocket performed the best. Thus, the HCV substrate envelope proved to be a powerful tool to design robust PIs, offering a strategy that can be translated to other targets for rational design of inhibitors with improved potency and resistance profiles.

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