Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

First Thesis Advisor

Celia Schiffer, PhD


HIV-1, Protease, Drug Resistance, Compensatory Mutations, Accessory Mutations, Secondary Mutations, Peripheral Mutations, AIDS, Computational Biology, Statistics, Machine Learning, Molecular Dynamics Simulations, Crystallography


The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) protease (PR) is a critical drug target as it is responsible for virion maturation. Mutations within the active site (1°) of the PR directly interfere with inhibitor binding while mutations distal to the active site (2°) to restore enzymatic fitness. Increasing mutation number is not directly proportional to the severity of resistance, suggesting that resistance is not simply additive but that it is interdependent. The interdependency of both primary and secondary mutations to drive protease inhibitor (PI) resistance is grossly understudied.

To structurally and dynamically characterize the direct role of secondary mutations in drug resistance, I selected a panel of single-site mutant protease crystal structures complexed with the PI darunavir (DRV). From these studies, I developed a network hypothesis that explains how mutations outside the active site are able to perpetuate changes to the active site of the protease to disrupt inhibitor binding.

I then expanded the panel to include highly mutated multi-drug resistant variants. To elucidate the interdependency between primary and secondary mutations I used statistical and machine-learning techniques to determine which specific mutations underlie the perturbations of key inter-molecular interactions. From these studies, I have determined that mutations distal to the active site are able to perturb the global PR hydrogen bonding patterns, while primary and secondary mutations cooperatively perturb hydrophobic contacts between the PR and DRV. Discerning and exploiting the mechanisms that underlie drug resistance in viral targets could proactively ameliorate both current treatment and inhibitor design for HIV-1 targets.



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