The antiretroviral chemotherapy helps to reduce the mortality of HIVs infected patients. However, RNA dependant virus replication has a high mutation rate. Human immunodeficiency virus Type 1 protease plays an essential role in viral replication cycle. This protein is an important target for therapy with viral protein inhibitors. There are few works using normal mode analysis to investigate this problem from the structural changes viewpoint. The investigation of protein flexibility may be important for the study of processes associated with conformational changes and state transitions. The normal mode analysis allowed us to investigate structural changes in the protease (such as flexibility) in a straightforward way and try to associate these changes with the increase of fitness for each positively selected HIV-1 mutant protease of patients treated with several protease inhibitors (saquinavir, indinavir, ritonavir, nelfinavir, lopinavir, fosamprenavir, atazanavir, darunavir, and tripanavir) in combination or separately. These positively selected mutations introduce significant flexibility in important regions such as the active site cavity and flaps. These mutations were also able to cause changes in accessible solvent area. This study showed that the majority of HIV-1 protease mutants can be grouped into two main classes of protein flexibility behavior. We presented a new approach to study structural changes caused by positively selected mutations in a pathogen protein, for instance the HIV-1 protease and their relationship with their resistance mechanism against known inhibitors. The method can be applied to any pharmaceutically relevant pathogen proteins and could be very useful to understand the effects of positively selected mutations in the context of structural changes. Proteins 2012; © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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