Polymerases have a structurally highly conserved negatively charged amino acid motif that is strictly required for Mg(2+) cation-dependent catalytic incorporation of (d)NTP nucleotides into nucleic acids. Based on these characteristics, a nucleoside monophosphonate scaffold, α-carboxy nucleoside phosphonate (α-CNP), was designed that is recognized by a variety of polymerases. Kinetic, biochemical, and crystallographic studies with HIV-1 reverse transcriptase revealed that α-CNPs mimic the dNTP binding through a carboxylate oxygen, two phosphonate oxygens, and base-pairing with the template. In particular, the carboxyl oxygen of the α-CNP acts as the potential equivalent of the α-phosphate oxygen of dNTPs and two oxygens of the phosphonate group of the α-CNP chelate Mg(2+), mimicking the chelation by the β- and γ-phosphate oxygens of dNTPs. α-CNPs (i) do not require metabolic activation (phosphorylation), (ii) bind directly to the substrate-binding site, (iii) chelate one of the two active site Mg(2+) ions, and (iv) reversibly inhibit the polymerase catalytic activity without being incorporated into nucleic acids. In addition, α-CNPs were also found to selectively interact with regulatory (i.e., allosteric) Mg(2+)-dNTP-binding sites of nucleos(t)ide-metabolizing enzymes susceptible to metabolic regulation. α-CNPs represent an entirely novel and broad technological platform for the development of specific substrate active- or regulatory-site inhibitors with therapeutic potential.
Keywords: (deoxy)nucleoside triphosphate mimic; HIV reverse transcriptase; allosteric inhibition; alpha-carboxy nucleoside phosphonate; herpes virus DNA polymerase.