One of the most serious side effects associated with the therapy of HIV-1 infection is the appearance of viral strains that exhibit resistance to protease inhibitors. The active site mutant V82F/I84V has been shown to lower the binding affinity of protease inhibitors in clinical use. To identify the origin of this effect, we have investigated the binding thermodynamics of the protease inhibitors indinavir, ritonavir, saquinavir, and nelfinavir to the wild-type HIV-1 protease and to the V82F/I84V resistant mutant. The main driving force for the binding of all four inhibitors is a large positive entropy change originating from the burial of a significant hydrophobic surface upon binding. At 25 °C, the binding enthalpy is unfavorable for all inhibitors except ritonavir for which it is slightly favorable (-2.3 kcal/mol). Since the inhibitors are preshaped to the geometry of the binding site, their conformational entropy loss upon binding is small, property that contributes to their high binding affinity. The V82F/I84V active site mutation lowers the affinity of the inhibitors by making the binding enthalpy more positive and making the entropy change slightly less favorable. The effect on the enthalpy change is, however, the major one. The predominantly enthalpic effect of the V82F/I84V mutation is consistent with the idea that the introduction of the bulkier Phe side chain at position 82 and the Val side chain at position 84 distort the binding site and weaken van der Waals and other favorable interactions with inhibitors preshaped to the wild-type binding site. Another contribution of the V82F/I84V to binding affinity originates from an increase in the energy penalty associated with the conformational change of the protease upon binding. The V82F/I84V mutant is structurally more stable than the wild-type protease by about 1.4 kcal/mol. This effect, however, affects equally the binding affinity of substrate and inhibitors.
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