Ligand affinities can be optimized by interfacial cavity filling. A hollow (Phe43 cavity) between HIV-1 surface protein (gp120) and cluster of differentiation 4 (CD4) receptor, extends beyond residue phenylalanine 43 of CD4 and cannot be fully accessed by natural amino acids. To increase HIV-1 gp120 affinity for a family of CD4-mimetic miniproteins (miniCD4s), we targeted the gp120 Phe43 cavity with eleven non-natural phenylalanine derivatives, introduced into a miniCD4 named M48 (1). The best derivative named M48U12 (13) binds HIV-1 YU2 gp120 with 8 pM affinity, and shows potent HIV-1 neutralization. It contained a methylcyclohexyl derivative of 4-aminophenylalanine and its co-crystal structure with gp120 revealed the cyclohexane ring buried within the gp120 hydrophobic core but able to assume multiple orientations in the binding pocket, and an aniline nitrogen potentially providing a focus for further improvement. Altogether, the results provide a framework for filling the interfacial Phe43 cavity to enhance miniCD4 affinity.
- Viral diseases
- Amino acids