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Keywords:

  • allosteric inhibitor;
  • crystal structure;
  • fragment screen;
  • HIV protease;
  • multidrug resistance

We have employed a fragment-based screen against wild-type (NL4-3) HIV protease (PR) using the Active Sight fragment library and X-ray crystallography. The experiments reveal two new binding sites for small molecules. PR was co-crystallized with fragments, or crystals were soaked in fragment solutions, using five crystal forms, and 378 data sets were collected to 2.3–1.3 Å resolution. Fragment binding induces a distinct conformation and specific crystal form of TL-3 inhibited PR during co-crystallization. One fragment, 2-methylcyclohexanol, binds in the ‘exo site’ adjacent to the Gly16Gly17Gln18loop where the amide of Gly17is a specific hydrogen bond donor, and hydrophobic contacts occur with the side chains of Lys14and Leu63. Another fragment, indole-6-carboxylic acid, binds on the ‘outside/top of the flap’ via hydrophobic contacts with Trp42, Pro44, Met46, and Lys55, a hydrogen bond with Val56, and a salt-bridge with Arg57. 2-acetyl-benzothiophene also binds at this site. This study is the first fragment-based crystallographic screen against HIV PR, and the first time that fragments were screened against an inhibitor-bound drug target to search for compounds that both bind to novel sites and stabilize the inhibited conformation of the target.