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Discovery of low-molecular-weight phenylalanine derivatives as novel HIV capsid modulators with improved antiretroviral activity and metabolic stability.

The HIV capsid (CA) protein is a promising target for anti-AIDS treatment due to its critical involvement in viral replication. Herein, we utilized the well-documented CA inhibitor PF74 as our lead compound and designed a series of low-molecular-weight phenylalanine derivatives. Among them, compound 7t exhibited remarkable antiviral activity with a high selection index (EC50  = 0.040 µM, SI = 2815), surpassing that of PF74 (EC50  = 0.50 µM, SI = 258). Furthermore, when evaluated against the HIV-2 strain, 7t (EC50  = 0.13 µM) demonstrated approximately 14-fold higher potency than that of PF74 (EC50  = 1.76 µM). Insights obtained from surface plasmon resonance (SPR) revealed that 7t exhibited stronger target affinity to the CA hexamer and monomer in comparison to PF74. The potential interactions between 7t and the HIV-1 CA were further elucidated using molecular docking and molecular dynamics simulations, providing a plausible explanation for the enhanced target affinity with 7t over PF74. Moreover, the metabolic stability assay demonstrated that 7t (T1/2  = 77.0 min) significantly outperforms PF74 (T1/2  = 0.7 min) in human liver microsome, exhibiting an improvement factor of 110-fold. In conclusion, 7t emerges as a promising drug candidate warranting further investigation.

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