Most viruses encode their own proteases to carry out viral maturation and these often require dimerization for activity. Studies on human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), type 2 (HIV-2) and human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV-1) proteases have shown that the activity of these proteases can be reversibly regulated by cysteine (Cys) glutathionylation and/or methionine oxidation (for HIV-2). These modifications lead to inhibition of protease dimerization and therefore loss of activity. These changes are reversible with the cellular enzymes, glutaredoxin or methionine sulfoxide reductase. Perhaps more importantly, as a result, the maturation of retroviral particles can also be regulated through reversible oxidation and this has been demonstrated for HIV-1, HIV-2, Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV) and murine leukemia virus (MLV). More recently, our group has learned that SARS-CoV-2 main protease (Mpro) dimerization and activity can also be regulated through reversible glutathionylation of Cys300. Overall, these studies reveal a conserved way for viruses to regulate viral polyprotein processing particularly during oxidative stress and reveal novel targets for the development of inhibitors of dimerization and activity of these important viral enzyme targets.
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2 main protease; aspartyl protease; coronavirus; dimerization; glutaredoxin; glutathionylation; human immunodeficiency virus; methionine sulfoxide reductase; retrovirus; reversible oxidation; thioltransferase.