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      Metalloprotoporphyrin Inhibition of HCV NS3-4A Protease: Structure–Activity Relationships

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          Antiviral actions of tetrapyrroles have been described in a number of systems. Our goal was to evaluate antagonism of the HCV NS3-4A protease by a variety of common porphyrins and characterize structure–activity relationships that may be useful for future drug design of HCV and related Flaviviruses.


          Using fluorometric assays, common metalloprotoporphyrins (MPP) all inhibited NS3-4A protease with IC 50 values in low micromolar ranges [CoPP (1.4 µM) < ZnPP = MnPP = SnPP < CuPP < FePP (6.5 µM) = protoporphyrin].


          Lineweaver–Burk plots confirmed that MPP: NS3 inhibition was basically competitive. All tested MPPs inhibited HCV genotype 1A, 1B, 2A and 3A recombinant proteases with the same fidelity suggesting wide antagonistic capabilities. However, when the MPPs were tested in cellular incubations with HCV replicons only Zn, Fe and free-base protoporphyrin showed comparable EC 50 and IC 50 values suggesting that there may be critical differences in MPP uptake and intracellular availability. Meso, deutero, and isohematoporphyrin derivatives, with or without metal substitution, all showed less anti-protease and antiviral activities as compared to protoporphyrins, suggesting that the planar, vinyl side chains are important for protease active site binding. MPPs were also active against three common protease mutants (T54A, A156T, and V36M) with equivalent or better IC 50 values as compared to wild type enzyme.


          These findings document the versatility of MPPs as antiviral agents with an expanded sensitivity for HCV genotypes and resistance to some common viral mutations. The results also suggest that further study of MPP structure and function will be useful for the development of new antiviral agents.

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          Most cited references 58

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          Boceprevir for untreated chronic HCV genotype 1 infection.

          Peginterferon-ribavirin therapy is the current standard of care for chronic infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV). The rate of sustained virologic response has been below 50% in cases of HCV genotype 1 infection. Boceprevir, a potent oral HCV-protease inhibitor, has been evaluated as an additional treatment in phase 1 and phase 2 studies. We conducted a double-blind study in which previously untreated adults with HCV genotype 1 infection were randomly assigned to one of three groups. In all three groups, peginterferon alfa-2b and ribavirin were administered for 4 weeks (the lead-in period). Subsequently, group 1 (the control group) received placebo plus peginterferon-ribavirin for 44 weeks; group 2 received boceprevir plus peginterferon-ribavirin for 24 weeks, and those with a detectable HCV RNA level between weeks 8 and 24 received placebo plus peginterferon-ribavirin for an additional 20 weeks; and group 3 received boceprevir plus peginterferon-ribavirin for 44 weeks. Nonblack patients and black patients were enrolled and analyzed separately. A total of 938 nonblack and 159 black patients were treated. In the nonblack cohort, a sustained virologic response was achieved in 125 of the 311 patients (40%) in group 1, in 211 of the 316 patients (67%) in group 2 (P<0.001), and in 213 of the 311 patients (68%) in group 3 (P<0.001). In the black cohort, a sustained virologic response was achieved in 12 of the 52 patients (23%) in group 1, in 22 of the 52 patients (42%) in group 2 (P=0.04), and in 29 of the 55 patients (53%) in group 3 (P=0.004). In group 2, a total of 44% of patients received peginterferon-ribavirin for 28 weeks. Anemia led to dose reductions in 13% of controls and 21% of boceprevir recipients, with discontinuations in 1% and 2%, respectively. The addition of boceprevir to standard therapy with peginterferon-ribavirin, as compared with standard therapy alone, significantly increased the rates of sustained virologic response in previously untreated adults with chronic HCV genotype 1 infection. The rates were similar with 24 weeks and 44 weeks of boceprevir. (Funded by Schering-Plough [now Merck]; SPRINT-2 ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00705432.).
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            Telaprevir for previously untreated chronic hepatitis C virus infection.

            In phase 2 trials, telaprevir, a hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 protease inhibitor, in combination with peginterferon-ribavirin, as compared with peginterferon-ribavirin alone, has shown improved efficacy, with potential for shortening the duration of treatment in a majority of patients. In this international, phase 3, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we assigned 1088 patients with HCV genotype 1 infection who had not received previous treatment for the infection to one of three groups: a group receiving telaprevir combined with peginterferon alfa-2a and ribavirin for 12 weeks (T12PR group), followed by peginterferon-ribavirin alone for 12 weeks if HCV RNA was undetectable at weeks 4 and 12 or for 36 weeks if HCV RNA was detectable at either time point; a group receiving telaprevir with peginterferon-ribavirin for 8 weeks and placebo with peginterferon-ribavirin for 4 weeks (T8PR group), followed by 12 or 36 weeks of peginterferon-ribavirin on the basis of the same HCV RNA criteria; or a group receiving placebo with peginterferon-ribavirin for 12 weeks, followed by 36 weeks of peginterferon-ribavirin (PR group). The primary end point was the proportion of patients who had undetectable plasma HCV RNA 24 weeks after the last planned dose of study treatment (sustained virologic response). Significantly more patients in the T12PR or T8PR group than in the PR group had a sustained virologic response (75% and 69%, respectively, vs. 44%; P<0.001 for the comparison of the T12PR or T8PR group with the PR group). A total of 58% of the patients treated with telaprevir were eligible to receive 24 weeks of total treatment. Anemia, gastrointestinal side effects, and skin rashes occurred at a higher incidence among patients receiving telaprevir than among those receiving peginterferon-ribavirin alone. The overall rate of discontinuation of the treatment regimen owing to adverse events was 10% in the T12PR and T8PR groups and 7% in the PR group. Telaprevir with peginterferon-ribavirin, as compared with peginterferon-ribavirin alone, was associated with significantly improved rates of sustained virologic response in patients with HCV genotype 1 infection who had not received previous treatment, with only 24 weeks of therapy administered in the majority of patients. (Funded by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Tibotec; ADVANCE ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00627926.).
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              Unravelling hepatitis C virus replication from genome to function.

              Since the discovery of the hepatitis C virus over 15 years ago, scientists have raced to develop diagnostics, study the virus and find new therapies. Yet virtually every attempt to dissect this pathogen has met with roadblocks that impeded progress. Its replication was restricted to humans or experimentally infected chimpanzees, and efficient growth of the virus in cell culture failed until very recently. Nevertheless hard-fought progress has been made and the first wave of antiviral drugs is entering clinical trials.

                Author and article information

                Drug Des Devel Ther
                Drug Des Devel Ther
                Drug Design, Development and Therapy
                24 February 2020
                : 14
                : 757-771
                [1 ]Department of Internal Medicine and Research Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center , Iowa City, IA 52246, USA
                [2 ]Department of Internal Medicine of the Roy G. And Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa , Iowa City, IA 52242, USA
                [3 ]Frontier Scientific , Logan, UT 84321, USA
                [4 ]Echelon Biosciences Inc , Salt Lake City, UT 84108, USA
                [5 ]Curza, Provo, UT and Cambridge , MA, USA
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Warren N Schmidt Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics , 200 Hawkins Drive, 4553 JCP, Iowa City, IA52242, USATel +1 319 353-7048Fax +1 319 356-7918 Email warren-schmidt@uiowa.edu
                © 2020 Hu et al.

                This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms ( https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php).

                Page count
                Figures: 5, Tables: 3, References: 65, Pages: 15
                Original Research


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