In-silico optimization and molecular validation of putative anti-HIV antimicrobial peptides for therapeutic purpose
AIDS is considered a pandemic causing millions of deaths worldwide and a cure for this disease is still not available. Failure to implement early treatments due to the poor diagnostic methods and ineffective therapeutic regimens to treat HIV patients to achieve complete viral eradication from the human body has encouraged the escalation of this disease at an exponential rate. Though the current treatment regimens (High Active Antiretroviral Therapy) have aided in increasing the lifespan of HIV patients, it still suffers from some shortcomings such as adverse side effects and non-eradication of the virus. Thus, there is a need for a non-toxic therapeutic regimen to stop further infection of HIV-infected patients. Antimicrobial Peptides (AMPs) are naturally occurring peptides which are components of the first line of defence of many organisms against infections and have been proven to be promising therapeutic agents against HIV. The use of AMPs as anti-microbial agents is due to the fact that most AMPs have a net positive charge and are mostly hydrophobic molecules. These features allow AMPs to be site directed electro-statistically to the mostly negatively charged pathogens. In a previous study, a number of novel anti-HIV AMPs was identified using a predictive algorithm Profile Hidden Markov Models (HMMER). The AMP's threedimensional structures were predicted using an in-silico modelling tool I-TASSER and an insilico protein-peptide interaction study of the AMPs to HIV protein gp120 was performed using PatchDock. Five AMPs were identified to bind gp120, at the site where gp120 interacts with CD4 to prevent HIV invasion and HIV replication. Therefore, the aims of this research were to perform in-silico site-directed mutation on the parental anti-HIV AMPs to increase their binding affinity to the gp120 protein, validate the anti-HIV activity of these peptides and confirm the exclusivity of this activity by testing possible anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activities of the AMPs. Firstly, the five parental anti-HIV AMPs were used to generate mutated AMPs through insilico site-directed mutagenesis. The AMPs 3-D structures were determined using I-TASSER and the modelled AMPs were docked against the HIV protein gp120 using PatchDock. Secondly, an "in house" Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tool developed by our industrial partner, Medical Diagnostech (Pty) Ltd, was utilised to confirm the in-silico docking results. Furthermore, the ability of these AMPs to inhibit HIV-1 replication was demonstrated and additional biological activities of the peptides were shown on bacteria and cancer cell lines. In an effort to identify AMPs with increased binding affinity, the in-silico results showed that two mutated AMPs Molecule 1.1 and Molecule 8.1 bind gp120 with high affinity, at the point where gp120 bind with CD4. The molecular binding however showed that only Molecule 3 and Molecule 7 could prevent the interaction of gp120 protein and CD4 surface protein of human cells, in a competitive binding assay. Additionally, the testing of the anti-HIV activity of the AMPs showed that Molecule 7, Molecule 8 and Molecule 8.1 could inhibit HIV-1 NL4-3 with maximal effective concentration (EC₅₀) values of 37.5 μg/ml and 93.75 μg/ml respectively. The EC₅₀ of Molecule 8.1 was determined to be around 12.5 μg/ml. This result looks promising since 150 μg/ml of the AMPs could not achieve 80% toxicity of the human T cells, thus high Therapeutics Index (TI) might be obtained if 50% cytotoxic concentration (CC₅₀) is established. Further biological activity demonstrates that Molecule 3 and Molecule 7 inhibited P. aeruginosa completely after 24 hours treatment with peptide concentrations ranging from 0.5 mg/ml to 0.03125 mg/ml. Nevertheless, moderate inhibition was observed when CHO, HeLa, MCF-7 and HT-29 were treated with these peptides at peptides concentration of 100 μg/ml. The ability of these AMPs to block the entrance of HIV via the binding to CD4 of the host cells is a good concept since they pave the way for the design of anti-HIV peptide-based drugs Entry Inhibitors (FIs) or can be exploited in the production microbicide gels/films to suppress the propagation of the virus.