Now showing items 1-20 of 369

    • Mucosal nanobody IgA as inhalable and affordable prophylactic and therapeutic treatment against SARS-CoV-2 and emerging variants

      Li, Qi; Humphries, Fiachra; Girardin, Roxie C; Wallace, Aaron; Ejemel, Monir; Amcheslavsky, Alla; McMahon, Conor T; Schiller, Zachary A; Ma, Zepei; Cruz, John; et al. (2022-09-12)
      Anti-COVID antibody therapeutics have been developed but not widely used due to their high cost and escape of neutralization from the emerging variants. Here, we describe the development of VHH-IgA1.1, a nanobody IgA fusion molecule as an inhalable, affordable and less invasive prophylactic and therapeutic treatment against SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variants. VHH-IgA1.1 recognizes a conserved epitope of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) and potently neutralizes major global SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOC) including the Omicron variant and its sub lineages BA.1.1, BA.2 and BA.2.12.1. VHH-IgA1.1 is also much more potent against Omicron variants as compared to an IgG Fc fusion construct, demonstrating the importance of IgA mediated mucosal protection for Omicron infection. Intranasal administration of VHH-IgA1.1 prior to or after challenge conferred significant protection from severe respiratory disease in K18-ACE2 transgenic mice infected with SARS-CoV-2 VOC. More importantly, for cost-effective production, VHH-IgA1.1 produced in Pichia pastoris had comparable potency to mammalian produced antibodies. Our study demonstrates that intranasal administration of affordably produced VHH-IgA fusion protein provides effective mucosal immunity against infection of SARS-CoV-2 including emerging variants.
    • Defining the substrate envelope of SARS-CoV-2 main protease to predict and avoid drug resistance

      Shaqra, Ala M.; Zvornicanin, Sarah N.; Huang, Qiu Yu J.; Lockbaum, Gordon J.; Knapp, Mark; Tandeske, Laura; Bakan, David T.; Flynn, Julia M.; Bolon, Daniel N.; Moquin, Stephanie; et al. (2022-06-21)
      Coronaviruses can evolve and spread rapidly to cause severe disease morbidity and mortality, as exemplified by SARS-CoV-2 variants of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although currently available vaccines remain mostly effective against SARS-CoV-2 variants, additional treatment strategies are needed. Inhibitors that target essential viral enzymes, such as proteases and polymerases, represent key classes of antivirals. However, clinical use of antiviral therapies inevitably leads to emergence of drug resistance. In this study we implemented a strategy to pre-emptively address drug resistance to protease inhibitors targeting the main protease (M(pro)) of SARS-CoV-2, an essential enzyme that promotes viral maturation. We solved nine high-resolution cocrystal structures of SARS-CoV-2 M(pro) bound to substrate peptides and six structures with cleavage products. These structures enabled us to define the substrate envelope of M(pro), map the critical recognition elements, and identify evolutionarily vulnerable sites that may be susceptible to resistance mutations that would compromise binding of the newly developed M(pro) inhibitors. Our results suggest strategies for developing robust inhibitors against SARS-CoV-2 that will retain longer-lasting efficacy against this evolving viral pathogen.
    • Comprehensive fitness landscape of SARS-CoV-2 M(pro) reveals insights into viral resistance mechanisms

      Flynn, Julia; Samant, Neha; Nachum, Gily S.; Bakan, David T.; Yilmaz, Nese Kurt; Schiffer, Celia A.; Moquin, Stephanie A.; Dovala, Dustin; Bolon, Daniel N. (2022-06-20)
      With the continual evolution of new strains of SARS-CoV-2 that are more virulent, transmissible, and able to evade current vaccines, there is an urgent need for effective anti-viral drugs SARS-CoV-2 main protease (M(pro)) is a leading target for drug design due to its conserved and indispensable role in the viral life cycle. Drugs targeting M(pro) appear promising but will elicit selection pressure for resistance. To understand resistance potential in M(pro), we performed a comprehensive mutational scan of the protease that analyzed the function of all possible single amino acid changes. We developed three separate high-throughput assays of M(pro) function in yeast, based on either the ability of M(pro) variants to cleave at a defined cut-site or on the toxicity of their expression to yeast. We used deep sequencing to quantify the functional effects of each variant in each screen. The protein fitness landscapes from all three screens were strongly correlated, indicating that they captured the biophysical properties critical to M(pro) function. The fitness landscapes revealed a non-active site location on the surface that is extremely sensitive to mutation making it a favorable location to target with inhibitors. In addition, we found a network of critical amino acids that physically bridge the two active sites of the M(pro) dimer. The clinical variants of M(pro) were predominantly functional in our screens, indicating that M(pro) is under strong selection pressure in the human population. Our results provide predictions of mutations that will be readily accessible to M(pro) evolution and that are likely to contribute to drug resistance. This complete mutational guide of M(pro) can be used in the design of inhibitors with reduced potential of evolving viral resistance.
    • HIV-1 VIF and human APOBEC3G interaction directly observed through molecular specific labeling using a new dual promotor vector

      Myint, Wazo; Schiffer, Celia A.; Matsuo, Hiroshi (2022-04-26)
      Over the last few decades, protein NMR isotope labeling methods using E. coli based expression have revolutionized the information accessible from biomolecular NMR experiments. Selective labeling of a protein of interest in a multi-protein complex can significantly reduce the number of cross-peaks and allow for study of large protein complexes. However, limitations still remain since some proteins are not stable independently and cannot be separately labeled in either NMR active isotope enriched or unenriched media and reconstituted into a multimeric complex. To overcome this limitation, the LEGO NMR method was previously developed using protein expression plasmids containing T7 or araBAD promoters to separately express proteins in the same E. coli after changing between labeled and unlabeled media. Building on this, we developed a method to label the Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 viral infectivity factor (HIV-1 Vif), a monomerically unstable protein, in complex with CBFbeta, it's host binding partner. We designed a dual promoter plasmid containing both T7 and araBAD promoters to independently control the expression of HIV-1 Vif in NMR active isotope enriched media and CBFbeta in unenriched media. Using this method, we assigned the backbone resonance and directly observed the binding of HIV-1 Vif with APOBEC3G, a host restriction factor to HIV-1.
    • Quantitative structural analysis of influenza virus by cryo-electron tomography and convolutional neural networks

      Huang, Qiu Yu J.; Song, KangKang; Xu, Chen; Bolon, Daniel N.; Wang, Jennifer P.; Finberg, Robert W.; Schiffer, Celia A.; Somasundaran, Mohan (2022-03-14)
      Influenza viruses pose severe public health threats globally. Influenza viruses are extensively pleomorphic, in shape, size, and organization of viral proteins. Analysis of influenza morphology and ultrastructure can help elucidate viral structure-function relationships and aid in therapeutics and vaccine development. While cryo-electron tomography (cryoET) can depict the 3D organization of pleomorphic influenza, the low signal-to-noise ratio inherent to cryoET and viral heterogeneity have precluded detailed characterization of influenza viruses. In this report, we leveraged convolutional neural networks and cryoET to characterize the morphological architecture of the A/Puerto Rico/8/34 (H1N1) influenza strain. Our pipeline improved the throughput of cryoET analysis and accurately identified viral components within tomograms. Using this approach, we successfully characterized influenza morphology, glycoprotein density, and conducted subtomogram averaging of influenza glycoproteins. Application of this processing pipeline can aid in the structural characterization of not only influenza viruses, but other pleomorphic viruses and infected cells.
    • Deciphering the Molecular Mechanism of HCV Protease Inhibitor Fluorination as a General Approach to Avoid Drug Resistance

      Zephyr, Jacqueto; Desaboini, Nageswara Rao; Vo, Sang V.; Henes, Mina; Kosovrasti, Klajdi; Matthew, Ashley N.; Hedger, Adam; Timm, Jennifer; Chan, Elise T.; Ali, Akbar; et al. (2022-02-17)
      Third generation Hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS3/4A protease inhibitors (PIs), glecaprevir and voxilaprevir, are highly effective across genotypes and against many resistant variants. Unlike earlier PIs, these compounds have fluorine substitutions on the P2-P4 macrocycle and P1 moieties. Fluorination has long been used in medicinal chemistry as a strategy to improve physicochemical properties and potency. However, the molecular basis by which fluorination improves potency and resistance profile of HCV NS3/4A PIs is not well understood. To systematically analyze the contribution of fluorine substitutions to inhibitor potency and resistance profile, we used a multi-disciplinary approach involving inhibitor design and synthesis, enzyme inhibition assays, co-crystallography, and structural analysis. A panel of inhibitors in matched pairs were designed with and without P4 cap fluorination, tested against WT protease and the D168A resistant variant, and a total of 22 high-resolution co-crystal structures were determined. While fluorination did not significantly improve potency against the WT protease, PIs with fluorinated P4 caps retained much better potency against the D168A protease variant. Detailed analysis of the co-crystal structures revealed that PIs with fluorinated P4 caps can sample alternate binding conformations that enable adapting to structural changes induced by the D168A substitution. Our results elucidate molecular mechanisms of fluorine-specific inhibitor interactions that can be leveraged in avoiding drug resistance.
    • Pathogen infection and cholesterol deficiency activate the C. elegans p38 immune pathway through a TIR-1/SARM1 phase transition

      Peterson, Nicholas D.; Icso, Janneke D.; Salisbury, J. Elizabeth; Thompson, Paul R.; Pukkila-Worley, Read (2022-01-31)
      Intracellular signaling regulators can be concentrated into membrane-free, higher ordered protein assemblies to initiate protective responses during stress - a process known as phase transition. Here, we show that a phase transition of the Caenorhabditis elegans Toll/interleukin-1 receptor domain protein (TIR-1), an NAD(+) glycohydrolase homologous to mammalian sterile alpha and TIR motif-containing 1 (SARM1), underlies p38 PMK-1 immune pathway activation in C. elegans intestinal epithelial cells. Through visualization of fluorescently labeled TIR-1/SARM1 protein, we demonstrate that physiologic stresses, both pathogen and non-pathogen, induce multimerization of TIR-1/SARM1 into visible puncta within intestinal epithelial cells. In vitro enzyme kinetic analyses revealed that, like mammalian SARM1, the NAD(+) glycohydrolase activity of C. elegans TIR-1 is dramatically potentiated by protein oligomerization and a phase transition. Accordingly, C. elegans with genetic mutations that specifically block either multimerization or the NAD(+) glycohydrolase activity of TIR-1/SARM1 fail to induce p38 PMK phosphorylation, are unable to increase immune effector expression, and are dramatically susceptible to bacterial infection. Finally, we demonstrate that a loss-of-function mutation in nhr-8, which alters cholesterol metabolism and is used to study conditions of sterol deficiency, causes TIR-1/SARM1 to oligomerize into puncta in intestinal epithelial cells. Cholesterol scarcity increases p38 PMK-1 phosphorylation, primes immune effector induction in a manner that requires TIR-1/SARM1 oligomerization and its intrinsic NAD(+) glycohydrolase activity, and reduces pathogen accumulation in the intestine during a subsequent infection. These data reveal a new adaptive response that allows a metazoan host to anticipate pathogen threats during cholesterol deprivation, a time of relative susceptibility to infection. Thus, a phase transition of TIR-1/SARM1 as a prerequisite for its NAD(+) glycohydrolase activity is strongly conserved across millions of years of evolution and is essential for diverse physiological processes in multiple cell types.
    • Identification of a Permissive Secondary Mutation That Restores the Enzymatic Activity of Oseltamivir Resistance Mutation H275Y

      Jiang, Li; Samant, Neha; Liu, Ping; Somasundaran, Mohan; Jensen, Jeffrey D.; Marasco, Wayne A.; Kowalik, Timothy F.; Schiffer, Celia A.; Finberg, Robert W.; Wang, Jennifer P.; et al. (2022-01-19)
      Many oseltamivir resistance mutations exhibit fitness defects in the absence of drug pressure that hinders their propagation in hosts. Secondary permissive mutations can rescue fitness defects and facilitate the segregation of resistance mutations in viral populations. Previous studies have identified a panel of permissive or compensatory mutations in neuraminidase (NA) that restore the growth defect of the predominant oseltamivir resistance mutation (H275Y) in H1N1 influenza A virus. In prior work, we identified a hyperactive mutation (Y276F) that increased NA activity by approximately 70%. While Y276F had not been previously identified as a permissive mutation, we hypothesized that Y276F may counteract the defects caused by H275Y by buffering its reduced NA expression and enzyme activity. In this study, we measured the relative fitness, NA activity, and surface expression, as well as sensitivity to oseltamivir, for several oseltamivir resistance mutations, including H275Y in the wild-type and Y276F genetic background. Our results demonstrate that Y276F selectively rescues the fitness defect of H275Y by restoring its NA surface expression and enzymatic activity, elucidating the local compensatory structural impacts of Y276F on the adjacent H275Y. IMPORTANCE The potential for influenza A virus (IAV) to cause pandemics makes understanding evolutionary mechanisms that impact drug resistance critical for developing surveillance and treatment strategies. Oseltamivir is the most widely used therapeutic strategy to treat IAV infections, but mutations in IAV can lead to drug resistance. The main oseltamivir resistance mutation, H275Y, occurs in the neuraminidase (NA) protein of IAV and reduces drug binding as well as NA function. Here, we identified a new helper mutation, Y276F, that can rescue the functional defects of H275Y and contribute to the evolution of drug resistance in IAV.
    • The role of SERPIN citrullination in thrombosis

      Tilvawala, Ronak; Nemmara, Venkatesh V.; Reyes, Archie C.; Sorvillo, Nicoletta; Salinger, Ari J.; Cherpokova, Deya; Fukui, Saeko; Gutch, Sarah; Wagner, Denisa; Thompson, Paul R. (2021-12-16)
      Aberrant protein citrullination is associated with many pathologies; however, the specific effects of this modification remain unknown. We have previously demonstrated that serine protease inhibitors (SERPINs) are highly citrullinated in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. These citrullinated SERPINs include antithrombin, antiplasmin, and t-PAI, which regulate the coagulation and fibrinolysis cascades. Notably, citrullination eliminates their inhibitory activity. Here, we demonstrate that citrullination of antithrombin and t-PAI impairs their binding to their cognate proteases. By contrast, citrullination converts antiplasmin into a substrate. We recapitulate the effects of SERPIN citrullination using in vitro plasma clotting and fibrinolysis assays. Moreover, we show that citrullinated antithrombin and antiplasmin are increased and decreased in a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) model, accounting for how SERPIN citrullination shifts the equilibrium toward thrombus formation. These data provide a direct link between increased citrullination and the risk of thrombosis in autoimmunity and indicate that aberrant SERPIN citrullination promotes pathological thrombus formation.
    • Quantitative Structural Analysis of Influenza Virus by Cryo-electron Tomography and Convolutional Neural Networks [preprint]

      Huang, Qiu Yu; Song, KangKang; Xu, Chen; Bolon, Daniel N.; Wang, Jennifer P.; Finberg, Robert W.; Schiffer, Celia A.; Somasundaran, Mohan (2021-12-09)
      Influenza viruses pose severe public health threats; they cause millions of infections and tens of thousands of deaths annually in the US. Influenza viruses are extensively pleomorphic, in both shape and size as well as organization of viral structural proteins. Analysis of influenza morphology and ultrastructure can help elucidate viral structure-function relationships as well as aid in therapeutics and vaccine development. While cryo-electron tomography (cryoET) can depict the 3D organization of pleomorphic influenza, the low signal-to-noise ratio inherent to cryoET and extensive viral heterogeneity have precluded detailed characterization of influenza viruses. In this report, we developed a cryoET processing pipeline leveraging convolutional neural networks (CNNs) to characterize the morphological architecture of the A/Puerto Rico/8/34 (H1N1) influenza strain. Our pipeline improved the throughput of cryoET analysis and accurately identified viral components within tomograms. Using this approach, we successfully characterized influenza viral morphology, glycoprotein density, and conduct subtomogram averaging of HA glycoproteins. Application of this processing pipeline can aid in the structural characterization of not only influenza viruses, but other pleomorphic viruses and infected cells.
    • Deciphering the Molecular Mechanism of HCV Protease Inhibitor Fluorination as a General Approach to Avoid Drug Resistance [preprint]

      Zephyr, Jacqueto; Desaboini, Nageswara Rao; Vo, Sang V.; Henes, Mina; Kosovrasti, Klajdi; Matthew, Ashley N.; Hedger, Adam K.; Timm, Jennifer; Chan, Elise T.; Ali, Akbar; et al. (2021-11-30)
      Third generation Hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS3/4A protease inhibitors (PIs), glecaprevir and voxilaprevir, are highly effective across genotypes and against many resistant variants. Unlike earlier PIs, these compounds have fluorine substitutions on the P2-P4 macrocycle and P1 moieties. Fluorination has long been used in medicinal chemistry as a strategy to improve physicochemical properties and potency. However, the molecular basis by which fluorination improves potency and resistance profile of HCV NS3/4A PIs is not well understood. To systematically analyze the contribution of fluorine substitutions to inhibitor potency and resistance profile, we used a multi-disciplinary approach involving inhibitor design and synthesis, enzyme inhibition assays, co-crystallography, and structural analysis. A panel of inhibitors in matched pairs were designed with and without P4 cap fluorination, tested against WT protease and the D168A resistant variant, and a total of 22 high-resolution co-crystal structures were determined. While fluorination did not significantly improve potency against the WT protease, PIs with fluorinated P4 caps retained much better potency against the D168A protease variant. Detailed analysis of the co-crystal structures revealed that PIs with fluorinated P4 caps can sample alternate binding conformations that enable adapting to structural changes induced by the D168A substitution. Our results elucidate molecular mechanisms of fluorine-specific inhibitor interactions that can be leveraged in avoiding drug resistance.
    • Proximity-Dependent Labeling of Cysteines

      Sen, Sudeshna; Sultana, Nadia; Shaffer, Scott A.; Thompson, Paul R. (2021-11-24)
      Mapping protein-protein interactions is crucial for understanding various signaling pathways in living cells, and developing new techniques for this purpose has attracted significant interest. Classic methods (e.g., the yeast two-hybrid) have been supplanted by more sophisticated chemical approaches that label proximal proteins (e.g., BioID, APEX). Herein we describe a proximity-based approach that uniquely labels cysteines. Our approach exploits the nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (NNMT)-catalyzed methylation of an alkyne-substituted 4-chloropyridine (SS6). Upon methylation of the pyridinium nitrogen, this latent electrophile diffuses out of the active site and labels proximal proteins on short time scales ( < /=5 min). We validated this approach by identifying known (and novel) interacting partners of protein arginine deiminase 2 (PAD2) and pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 1 (PDK1). To our knowledge, this technology uniquely exploits a suicide substrate to label proximal cysteines in live cells.
    • Viral proteases: Structure, mechanism and inhibition

      Zephyr, Jacqueto; Yilmaz, Nese Kurt; Schiffer, Celia A. (2021-11-17)
      Viral proteases are diverse in structure, oligomeric state, catalytic mechanism, and substrate specificity. This chapter focuses on proteases from viruses that are relevant to human health: human immunodeficiency virus subtype 1 (HIV-1), hepatitis C (HCV), human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1), flaviviruses, enteroviruses, and coronaviruses. The proteases of HIV-1 and HCV have been successfully targeted for therapeutics, with picomolar FDA-approved drugs currently used in the clinic. The proteases of HTLV-1 and the other virus families remain emerging therapeutic targets at different stages of the drug development process. This chapter provides an overview of the current knowledge on viral protease structure, mechanism, substrate recognition, and inhibition. Particular focus is placed on recent advances in understanding the molecular basis of diverse substrate recognition and resistance, which is essential toward designing novel protease inhibitors as antivirals.
    • Applicability of Small-Molecule Inhibitors in the Study of Peptidyl Arginine Deiminase 2 (PAD2) and PAD4

      Martin Monreal, Maria Teresa.; Rebak, Alexandra Stripp; Massarenti, Laura; Mondal, Santanu; Senolt, Ladislav; Odum, Niels; Nielsen, Michael L.; Thompson, Paul R.; Nielsen, Claus H.; Damgaard, Dres (2021-10-19)
      Citrullination, the conversion of peptidyl-arginine into peptidyl-citrulline, is involved in the breakage of self-tolerance in anti-CCP-positive rheumatoid arthritis. This reaction is catalyzed by peptidyl arginine deiminases (PADs), of which PAD2 and PAD4 are thought to play key pathogenic roles. Small-molecule PAD inhibitors such as the pan-PAD inhibitor BB-Cl-amidine, the PAD2-specific inhibitor AFM-30a, and the PAD4-specific inhibitor GSK199 hold therapeutic potential and are useful tools in studies of citrullination. Using an ELISA based on the citrullination of fibrinogen, we found that AFM-30a inhibited the catalytic activity of PADs derived from live PMNs or lysed PBMCs and PMNs and of PADs in cell-free synovial fluid samples from RA patients, while GSK199 had minor effects. In combination, AFM-30a and GSK199 inhibited total intracellular citrullination and citrullination of histone H3 in PBMCs, as determined by Western blotting. They were essentially nontoxic to CD4(+) T cells, CD8(+) T cells, B cells, NK cells, and monocytes at concentrations ranging from 1 to 20 muM, while BB-Cl-amidine was cytotoxic at concentrations above 1 muM, as assessed by flow cytometric viability staining and by measurement of lactate dehydrogenase released from dying cells. In conclusion, AFM-30a is an efficient inhibitor of PAD2 derived from PBMCs, PMNs, or synovial fluid. AFM-30a and GSK199 can be used in combination for inhibition of PAD activity associated with PBMCs but without the cytotoxic effect of BB-Cl-amidine. This suggests that AFM-30a and GSK199 may have fewer off-target effects than BB-Cl-amidine and therefore hold greater therapeutic potential.
    • Pan-3C Protease Inhibitor Rupintrivir Binds SARS-CoV-2 Main Protease in a Unique Binding Mode

      Lockbaum, Gordon J.; Henes, Mina; Lee, Jeong Min.; Timm, Jennifer; Nalivaika, Ellen A.; Thompson, Paul R.; Yilmaz, Nese Kurt; Schiffer, Celia A. (2021-10-05)
      Rupintrivir targets the 3C cysteine proteases of the picornaviridae family, which includes rhinoviruses and enteroviruses that cause a range of human diseases. Despite being a pan-3C protease inhibitor, rupintrivir activity is extremely weak against the homologous 3C-like protease of SARS-CoV-2. In this study, the crystal structures of rupintrivir were determined bound to enterovirus 68 (EV68) 3C protease and the 3C-like main protease (M(pro)) from SARS-CoV-2. While the EV68 3C protease-rupintrivir structure was similar to previously determined complexes with other picornavirus 3C proteases, rupintrivir bound in a unique conformation to the active site of SARS-CoV-2 M(pro) splitting the catalytic cysteine and histidine residues. This bifurcation of the catalytic dyad may provide a novel approach for inhibiting cysteine proteases.
    • A Streamlined Data Analysis Pipeline for the Identification of Sites of Citrullination

      Maurais, Aaron J.; Salinger, Ari J.; Tobin, Micaela; Shaffer, Scott A.; Weerapana, Eranthie; Thompson, Paul R. (2021-09-28)
      Citrullination is an enzyme-catalyzed post-translational modification (PTM) that is essential for a host of biological processes, including gene regulation, programmed cell death, and organ development. While this PTM is required for normal cellular functions, aberrant citrullination is a hallmark of autoimmune disorders as well as cancer. Although aberrant citrullination is linked to human pathology, the exact role of citrullination in disease remains poorly characterized, in part because of the challenges associated with identifying the specific arginine residues that are citrullinated. Tandem mass spectrometry is the most precise method for uncovering sites of citrullination; however, due to the small mass shift (+0.984 Da) that results from citrullination, current database search algorithms commonly misannotate spectra, leading to a high number of false-positive assignments. To address this challenge, we developed an automated workflow to rigorously and rapidly mine proteomic data to unambiguously identify the sites of citrullination from complex peptide mixtures. The crux of this streamlined workflow is the ionFinder software program, which classifies citrullination sites with high confidence on the basis of the presence of diagnostic fragment ions. These diagnostic ions include the neutral loss of isocyanic acid, which is a dissociative event that is unique to citrulline residues. Using the ionFinder program, we have mapped the sites of autocitrullination on purified protein arginine deiminases (PAD1-4) and mapped the global citrullinome in a PAD2-overexpressing cell line. The ionFinder algorithm is a highly versatile, user-friendly, and open-source program that is agnostic to the type of instrument and mode of fragmentation that are used.
    • Analyses of HIV proteases variants at the threshold of viability reveals relationships between processing efficiency and fitness

      Nachum, Gily S.; Flynn, Julia; Mavor, David; Schiffer, Celia A.; Bolon, Daniel N. (2021-09-01)
      Investigating the relationships between protein function and fitness provides keys for understanding biochemical mechanisms that underly evolution. Mutations with partial fitness defects can delineate the threshold of biochemical function required for viability. We utilized a previous deep mutational scan of HIV-1 protease (PR) to identify variants with 15-45 per cent defects in replication and analysed the biochemical function of eight variants (L10M, L10S, V32C, V32I, A71V, A71S, Q92I, Q92N). We purified each variant and assessed the efficiency of peptide cleavage for three cut sites (MA-CA, TF-PR, and PR-RT) as well as gel-based analyses of processing of purified Gag. The cutting activity of at least one site was perturbed relative to WT protease for all variants, consistent with cutting activity being a primary determinant of fitness effects. We examined the correlation of fitness defects with cutting activity of different sites. MA-CA showed the weakest correlation (R (2) = 0.02) with fitness, suggesting relatively weak coupling with viral replication. In contrast, cutting of the TF-PR site showed the strongest correlation with fitness (R (2) = 0.53). Cutting at the TF-PR site creates a new PR protein with a free N-terminus that is critical for activity. Our findings indicate that increasing the pool of active PR is rate limiting for viral replication, making this an ideal step to target with inhibitors.
    • Discovery of Quinoxaline-Based P1-P3 Macrocyclic NS3/4A Protease Inhibitors with Potent Activity against Drug-Resistant Hepatitis C Virus Variants

      Desaboini, Nageswara Rao; Zephyr, Jacqueto; Henes, Mina; Chan, Elise T.; Matthew, Ashley N.; Hedger, Adam; Conway, Hasahn L.; Saeed, Mohsan; Newton, Alicia; Petropoulos, Christos J.; et al. (2021-08-26)
      The three pan-genotypic HCV NS3/4A protease inhibitors (PIs) currently in clinical use-grazoprevir, glecaprevir, and voxilaprevir-are quinoxaline-based P2-P4 macrocycles and thus exhibit similar resistance profiles. Using our quinoxaline-based P1-P3 macrocyclic lead compounds as an alternative chemical scaffold, we explored structure-activity relationships (SARs) at the P2 and P4 positions to develop pan-genotypic PIs that avoid drug resistance. A structure-guided strategy was used to design and synthesize two series of compounds with different P2 quinoxalines in combination with diverse P4 groups of varying sizes and shapes, with and without fluorine substitutions. Our SAR data and cocrystal structures revealed the interplay between the P2 and P4 groups, which influenced inhibitor binding and the overall resistance profile. Optimizing inhibitor interactions in the S4 pocket led to PIs with excellent antiviral activity against clinically relevant PI-resistant HCV variants and genotype 3, providing potential pan-genotypic inhibitors with improved resistance profiles.
    • Affinity maturation of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies confers potency, breadth, and resilience to viral escape mutations

      Muecksch, Frauke; Hou, Shurong; Schiffer, Celia A.; Nussenzweig, Michel C.; Bjorkman, Pamela J.; Hatziioannou, Theodora; Bieniasz, Paul D. (2021-08-10)
      Antibodies elicited by infection accumulate somatic mutations in germinal centers that can increase affinity for cognate antigens. We analyzed 6 independent groups of clonally related severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) Spike receptor-binding domain (RBD)-specific antibodies from 5 individuals shortly after infection and later in convalescence to determine the impact of maturation over months. In addition to increased affinity and neutralization potency, antibody evolution changed the mutational pathways for the acquisition of viral resistance and restricted neutralization escape options. For some antibodies, maturation imposed a requirement for multiple substitutions to enable escape. For certain antibodies, affinity maturation enabled the neutralization of circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and heterologous sarbecoviruses. Antibody-antigen structures revealed that these properties resulted from substitutions that allowed additional variability at the interface with the RBD. These findings suggest that increasing antibody diversity through prolonged or repeated antigen exposure may improve protection against diversifying SARS-CoV-2 populations, and perhaps against other pandemic threat coronaviruses.
    • Structural basis of substrate specificity in human cytidine deaminase family APOBEC3s

      Hou, Shurong; Lee, Jeong Min.; Myint, Wazo; Matsuo, Hiroshi; Yilmaz, Nese Kurt; Schiffer, Celia A. (2021-08-01)
      The human cytidine deaminase family of APOBEC3s (A3s) plays critical roles in both innate immunity and the development of cancers. A3s comprise seven functionally overlapping but distinct members that can be exploited as nucleotide base editors for treating genetic diseases. Although overall structurally similar, A3s have vastly varying deamination activity and substrate preferences. Recent crystal structures of ssDNA-bound A3s together with experimental studies have provided some insights into distinct substrate specificities among the family members. However, the molecular interactions responsible for their distinct biological functions and how structure regulates substrate specificity are not clear. In this study, we identified the structural basis of substrate specificities in three catalytically active A3 domains whose crystal structures have been previously characterized: A3A, A3B- CTD, and A3G-CTD. Through molecular modeling and dynamic simulations, we found an interdependency between ssDNA substrate binding conformation and nucleotide sequence specificity. In addition to the U-shaped conformation seen in the crystal structure with the CTC0 motif, A3A can accommodate the CCC0 motif when ssDNA is in a more linear (L) conformation. A3B can also bind both U- and L-shaped ssDNA, unlike A3G, which can stably recognize only linear ssDNA. These varied conformations are stabilized by sequence-specific interactions with active site loops 1 and 7, which are highly variable among A3s. Our results explain the molecular basis of previously observed substrate specificities in A3s and have implications for designing A3-specific inhibitors for cancer therapy as well as engineering base-editing systems for gene therapy.