Abolishing HIV-1 infectivity using a polypurine tract-specific G-quadruplex-forming oligonucleotide

BMC Infect Dis. 2016 Jul 22:16:358. doi: 10.1186/s12879-016-1713-x.


Background: HIV is primarily transmitted by sexual intercourse and predominantly infects people in Third World countries. Here an important medical need is self-protection for women, particularly in societies where condoms are not widely accepted. Therefore, availability of antiviral microbicides may significantly reduce sexual HIV transmission in such environments.

Methods: Here, we investigated structural characteristics and the antiviral activity of the polypurine tract (PPT)-specific ODN A, a 54-mer oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) that has been previously shown to trigger the destruction of viral RNA genomes by prematurely activating the retroviral RNase H. The stability of ODN A and mutants thereof was tested at various storage conditions. Furthermore, antiviral effects of ODN A were analyzed in various tissue culture HIV-1 infection models. Finally, circular dichroism spectroscopy was employed to gain insight into the structure of ODN A.

Results: We show here that ODN A is a powerful tool to abolish HIV-1 particle infectivity, as required for a candidate compound in vaginal microbicide applications. We demonstrate that ODN A is not only capable to prematurely activate the retroviral RNase H, but also prevents HIV-1 from entering host cells. ODN A also exhibited extraordinary stability lasting several weeks. Notably, ODN A is biologically active under various storage conditions, as well as in the presence of carboxymethylcellulose CMC (K-Y Jelly), a potential carrier for application as a vaginal microbicide. ODN A's remarkable thermostability is apparently due to its specific, guanosine-rich sequence. Interestingly, these residues can form G-quadruplexes and may lead to G-based DNA hyperstructures. Importantly, the pronounced antiviral activity of ODN A is maintained in the presence of human semen or semen-derived enhancer of virus infection (SEVI; i.e. amyloid fibrils), both known to enhance HIV infectivity and reduce the efficacy of some antiviral microbicides.

Conclusions: Since ODN A efficiently inactivates HIV-1 and also displays high stability and resistance against semen, it combines unique and promising features for its further development as a vaginal microbicide against HIV.

Keywords: Antivirals; G-quadruplex; HIV; Infectivity; Microbicide; RNase H.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intravaginal
  • Antiviral Agents / chemistry
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • G-Quadruplexes*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV-1*
  • Humans
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / chemistry
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / therapeutic use*
  • Purines*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Purines