Identification of HIV inhibitors guided by free energy perturbation calculations

Orlando Acevedo, Zandrea Ambrose, Patrick T. Flaherty, Hadega Aamer, Prashi Jain, V. Sambasivarao Somisetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Free energy perturbation (FEP) theory coupled to molecular dynamics (MD) or Monte Carlo (MC) statistical mechanics offers a theoretically precise method for determining the free energy differences of related biological inhibitors. Traditionally requiring extensive computational resources and expertise, it is only recently that its impact is being felt in drug discovery. A review of computer-aided anti-HIV efforts employing FEP calculations is provided here that describes early and recent successes in the design of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) protease and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors. In addition, our ongoing work developing and optimizing leads for small molecule inhibitors of cyclophilin A (CypA) is highlighted as an update on the current capabilities of the field. CypA has been shown to aid HIV-1 replication by catalyzing the cis/trans isomerization of a conserved Gly-Pro motif in the N-terminal domain of HIV-1 capsid (CA) protein. In the absence of a functional CypA, e.g., by the addition of an inhibitor such as cyclosporine A (CsA), HIV-1 has reduced infectivity. Our simulations of acylurea-based and 1-indanylketone-based CypA inhibitors have determined that their nanomolar and micromolar binding affinities, respectively, are tied to their ability to stabilize Arg55 and Asn102. A structurally novel 1-(2,6-dichlorobenzamido) indole core was proposed to maximize these interactions. FEP-guided optimization, experimental synthesis, and biological testing of lead compounds for toxicity and inhibition of wild-type HIV-1 and CA mutants have demonstrated a dose-dependent inhibition of HIV-1 infection in two cell lines. While the inhibition is modest compared to CsA, the results are encouraging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1199-1216
Number of pages18
JournalCurrent pharmaceutical design
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Computer-aided drug design
  • Cyclophilin
  • Free energy perturbation
  • HIV
  • Inhibitor
  • Protease
  • Reverse transcriptase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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