Discovery of novel HIV protease inhibitors using modern computational techniques

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) has continued to be a global concern. With the new HIV incidence, the emergence of multi-drug resistance and the untoward side effects of currently used anti-HIV drugs, there is an urgent need to discover more efficient anti-HIV drugs. Modern computational tools have played vital roles in facilitating the drug discovery process. This research focuses on a pharmacophore-based similarity search to screen 111,566,735 unique compounds in the PubChem database to discover novel HIV-1 protease inhibitors (PIs). We used an in silico approach involving a 3D-similarity search, physicochemical and ADMET evaluations, HIV protease inhibitor prediction (IC50/percent inhibition), rigid receptor–molecular docking studies, binding free energy calculations and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. The 10 FDA-approved HIV PIs (saquinavir, lopinavir, ritonavir, amprenavir, fosamprenavir, atazanavir, nelfinavir, darunavir, tipranavir and indinavir) were used as reference. The in silico analysis revealed that fourteen out of the twenty-eight selected optimized hit molecules were within the acceptable range of all the parameters investigated. The hit molecules demonstrated significant binding affinity to the HIV protease (PR) when compared to the reference drugs. The important amino acid residues involved in
hydrogen bonding and ï-ï stacked interactions include ASP25, GLY27, ASP29, ASP30 and ILE50. These interactions help to stabilize the optimized hit molecules in the active binding site of the HIV-1 PR (PDB ID: 2Q5K). HPS/002 and HPS/004 have been found to be most promising in terms of IC50/percent inhibition (90.15%) of HIV-1 PR, in addition to their drug metabolism and safety profile. These hit candidates should be investigated further as possible HIV-1 PIs with improved efficacy and low toxicity through in vitro experiments and clinical trial investigations.