Broad-spectrum aptamer inhibitors of HIV reverse transcriptase closely mimic natural substrates

Nucleic Acids Res. 2011 Oct;39(18):8237-47. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr381. Epub 2011 Jul 3.


A detailed understanding of how aptamers recognize biological binding partners is of considerable importance in the development of oligonucleotide therapeutics. For antiviral nucleic acid aptamers, current models predict a correlation between broad-spectrum inhibition of viral proteins and suppression of emerging viral resistance, but there is little understanding of how aptamer structures contribute to recognition specificity. We previously established that two independent single-stranded DNA aptamers, R1T and RT1t49(-5), are potent inhibitors of reverse transcriptases (RTs) from diverse branches of the primate lentiviral family, including HIV-1, HIV-2 and SIV(cpz). In contrast, class 1 RNA pseudoknots, such as aptamer T1.1, are specific for RTs from only a few viral clades. Here, we map the binding interfaces of complexes formed between RT and aptamers R1T, RT1t49(-5) and T1.1, using mass spectrometry-based protein footprinting of RT and hydroxyl radical footprinting of the aptamers. These complementary methods reveal that the broad-spectrum aptamers make contacts throughout the primer-template binding cleft of RT. The double-stranded stems of these aptamers closely mimic natural substrates near the RNase H domain, while their binding within the polymerase domain significantly differs from RT substrates. These results inform our perspective on how sustained, broad-spectrum inhibition of RT can be achieved by aptamers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anti-HIV Agents / chemistry*
  • Aptamers, Nucleotide / chemistry*
  • Binding Sites
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase / chemistry*
  • Hydroxyl Radical / chemistry
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Footprinting
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / chemistry*


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Aptamers, Nucleotide
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
  • Hydroxyl Radical
  • reverse transcriptase, Human immunodeficiency virus 1
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase