Cell & Bioscience

, 2:32

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Effects of HIV-1 protease on cellular functions and their potential applications in antiretroviral therapy

  • Hailiu YangAffiliated withUniversity of Maryland School of Medicine
  • , Joseph NkezeAffiliated withDepartment of Pathology, University of Maryland School of Medicine
  • , Richard Y ZhaoAffiliated withDepartment of Pathology, University of Maryland School of MedicineDepartment of Microbiology-Immunology, University of Maryland School of MedicineInstitute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine Email author 


Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1) protease inhibitors (PIs) are the most potent class of drugs in antiretroviral therapies. However, viral drug resistance to PIs could emerge rapidly thus reducing the effectiveness of those drugs. Of note, all current FDA-approved PIs are competitive inhibitors, i.e., inhibitors that compete with substrates for the active enzymatic site. This common inhibitory approach increases the likelihood of developing drug resistant HIV-1 strains that are resistant to many or all current PIs. Hence, new PIs that move away from the current target of the active enzymatic site are needed. Specifically, allosteric inhibitors, inhibitors that prohibit PR enzymatic activities through non-competitive binding to PR, should be sought. Another common feature of current PIs is they were all developed based on the structure-based design. Drugs derived from a structure-based strategy may generate target specific and potent inhibitors. However, this type of drug design can only target one site at a time and drugs discovered by this method are often associated with strong side effects such as cellular toxicity, limiting its number of target choices, efficacy, and applicability. In contrast, a cell-based system may provide a useful alternative strategy that can overcome many of the inherited shortcomings associated with structure-based drug designs. For example, allosteric PIs can be sought using a cell-based system without considering the site or mechanism of inhibition. In addition, a cell-based system can eliminate those PIs that have strong cytotoxic effect. Most importantly, a simple, economical, and easy-to-maintained eukaryotic cellular system such as yeast will allow us to search for potential PIs in a large-scaled high throughput screening (HTS) system, thus increasing the chances of success. Based on our many years of experience in using fission yeast as a model system to study HIV-1 Vpr, we propose the use of fission yeast as a possible surrogate system to study the effects of HIV-1 protease on cellular functions and to explore its utility as a HTS system to search for new PIs to battle HIV-1 resistant strains.


HIV-1 protease Structure-based design Allosteric inhibitor Antiretroviral therapy Fission yeast Cell-based high-throughput screening