Aptamers that recognize drug-resistant HIV-1 reverse transcriptase

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Drug-resistant variants of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) are also known to be resistant to anti-RT RNA aptamers. In order to be able to develop diagnostics and therapies that can focus on otherwise drug-resistant viruses, we have isolated two aptamers against a well-known, drug-resistant HIV-1 RT, Mutant 3 (M3) from the multidrug-resistant HIV-1 RT panel. One aptamer, M302, bound M3 but showed no significant affinity for wild-type (WT) HIV-1 RT, while another aptamer, 12.01, bound to both M3 and WT HIV-1 RTs. In contrast to all previously selected anti-RT aptamers, neither of these aptamers showed observable inhibition of either polymerase or RNase H activities. Aptamers M302 and 12.01 competed with one another for binding to M3, but they did not compete with a pseudoknot aptamer for binding to the template/primer cleft of WT HIV-1 RT. These results represent the surprising identification of an additional RNA-binding epitope on the surface of HIV-1 RT. M3 and WT HIV-1 RTs could be distinguished using an aptamer-based microarray. By probing protein conformation as a correlate to drug resistance we introduce an additional and useful measure for determining HIV-1 drug resistance.

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