Teaching foundational topics and scientific skills in biochemistry within the conceptual framework of HIV protease


  • R. Jeremy Johnson

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Chemistry, Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana
    • Address for correspondence to: Department of chemistry, Butler University, 4600 Sunset Ave., Indianapolis, In 46208, USA. E-mail: rjjohns1@butler.edu.

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HIV protease has served as a model protein for understanding protein structure, enzyme kinetics, structure-based drug design, and protein evolution. Inhibitors of HIV protease are also an essential part of effective HIV/AIDS treatment and have provided great societal benefits. The broad applications for HIV protease and its inhibitors make it a perfect framework for integrating foundational topics in biochemistry around a big picture scientific and societal issue. Herein, I describe a series of classroom exercises that integrate foundational topics in biochemistry around the structure, biology, and therapeutic inhibition of HIV protease. These exercises center on foundational topics in biochemistry including thermodynamics, acid/base properties, protein structure, ligand binding, and enzymatic catalysis. The exercises also incorporate regular student practice of scientific skills including analysis of primary literature, evaluation of scientific data, and presentation of technical scientific arguments. Through the exercises, students also gain experience accessing computational biochemical resources such as the protein data bank, Proteopedia, and protein visualization software. As these HIV centered exercises cover foundational topics common to all first semester biochemistry courses, these exercises should appeal to a broad audience of undergraduate students and should be readily integrated into a variety of teaching styles and classroom sizes. © 2014 by The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 42(4):299–304, 2014.