Thesis supervisor: Professor Andres Merits (Tartu ülikool)
Opponent: Anders Vahlne, MD, PhD, Associate Professor
Department of Laboratory Medicine
KI Campus Solna, Stockholm, Sweden.
HIV-1 is a pandemic virus and the numbers of infected people are constantly increasing all over the world. There is no vaccine available, but about 30 compounds have been approved by FDA for the treatment of HIV-infected patients. ART (antiretroviral therapy) consists of a combination of at least 3 inhibitors with different mechanism of action. The main drawback of such treatment is side effects of the drugs and the appearance of new resistant forms of the virus. The aim of this work was to find non-toxic compounds which can effectively suppress HIV-1 replication (both wild-type and resistant forms of the virus). We focused our efforts mostly on the discovery of novel reverse transcriptase inhibitors. Three groups of compounds were tested for their antiretroviral activity (acyclic thymine nucleoside analogues, bimorpholines and their derivatives, and saccharide hydrazones); also we experimentally verified the results of the previous in silico screening. As a result of this work, we developed an assay for HIV-1 inhibitors′ screening. This assay is based on ViraPower Lentiviral Expression System (Invitrogen) and is simple, fast, reliable and can be used outside BSL3 facilities. The most potent compound, found by us so far, acts as a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) and has activity comparable to the activity of a known NNRTI nevirapine, but is unfortunately inactive against the resistant forms of the virus. This compound was found using ration drug design strategy. Most importantly, the results of this work allowed us to improve the existing in silico screening method, which could result in more potent HIV-1 inhibitors in the future.