Computer-aided de novo design and optimization of novel potential inhibitors of HIV-1 Nef protein

Satyabrata Majumder, Giuseppe Deganutti, Ludovico Pipitò, Dwaipayan Chaudhuri, Joyeeta Datta, Kalyan Giri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Nef is a small accessory protein pivotal in the HIV-1 viral replication cycle. It is a multifunctional protein and its interactions with kinases in host cells have been well characterized through many in vitro and structural studies. Nef forms a homodimer to activate the kinases and subsequently the phosphorylation pathways. The disruption of its homodimerization represents a valuable approach in the search for novel classes of antiretroviral. However, this research avenue is still underdeveloped as just a few Nef inhibitors have been reported so far, with very limited structural information about their mechanism of action. To address this issue, we have employed an in silico structure-based drug design strategy that combines de novo ligand design with molecular docking and extensive molecular dynamics simulations. Since the Nef pocket involved in homodimerization has high lipophilicity, the initial de novo-designed structures displayed poor drug-likeness and solubility. Taking information from the hydration sites within the homodimerization pocket, structural modifications in the initial lead compound have been introduced to improve the solubility and drug-likeness, without affecting the binding profile. We propose lead compounds that can be the starting point for further optimizations to deliver long-awaited, rationally designed Nef inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107871
JournalComputational Biology and Chemistry
Early online date15 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

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  • HIV-1 Nef protein
  • De Novo ligand design
  • Supervised molecular dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mathematics
  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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