Sub-picomolar Inhibition of HIV-1 Protease with a Boronic Acid

J Am Chem Soc. 2018 Oct 31;140(43):14015-14018. doi: 10.1021/jacs.8b07366. Epub 2018 Oct 22.


Boronic acids have been typecast as moieties for covalent complexation and are employed only rarely as agents for non-covalent recognition. By exploiting the profuse ability of a boronic acid group to form hydrogen bonds, we have developed an inhibitor of HIV-1 protease with extraordinary affinity. Specifically, we find that replacing an aniline moiety in darunavir with a phenylboronic acid leads to 20-fold greater affinity for the protease. X-ray crystallography demonstrates that the boronic acid group participates in three hydrogen bonds, more than the amino group of darunavir or any other analog. Importantly, the boronic acid maintains its hydrogen bonds and its affinity for the drug-resistant D30N variant of HIV-1 protease. The BOH···OC hydrogen bonds between the boronic acid hydroxy group and Asp30 (or Asn30) of the protease are short ( rO···O = 2.2 Å), and density functional theory analysis reveals a high degree of covalency. These data highlight the utility of boronic acids as versatile functional groups in the design of small-molecule ligands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Boronic Acids / chemistry
  • Boronic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • HIV Protease / metabolism*
  • HIV Protease Inhibitors / chemistry
  • HIV Protease Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Boronic Acids
  • HIV Protease Inhibitors
  • HIV Protease
  • p16 protease, Human immunodeficiency virus 1