Soy sauce molecule may unlock drug therapy for HIV patients

MU researchers now are testing the next generation of medications that stop HIV from spreading, and are using a molecule related to flavor enhancers found in soy sauce. Credit: MOs810, Wikimedia Commons

For HIV patients being treated with anti-AIDS medications, resistance to drug therapy regimens is commonplace. Often, patients develop resistance to first-line drug therapies, such as Tenofovir, and are forced to adopt more potent medications. Virologists at the University of Missouri now are testing the next generation of medications that stop HIV from spreading, and are using a molecule related to flavor enhancers found in soy sauce, to develop compounds that are more potent than Tenofovir.

"Patients who are treated for HIV infections with Tenofovir, eventually develop resistance to the drugs that prevent an effective or successful defense against the virus," said Stefan Sarafianos, associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology in the University of Missouri School of Medicine, and a virologist at the Bond Life Sciences Center at MU. "EFdA, the molecule we are studying, is less likely to cause resistance in HIV patients because it is more readily activated and is less quickly broken down by the body as similar existing drugs."

In 2001, a Japanese company inadvertently discovered the EFdA molecule while trying to enhance the flavor of their product. The flavor enhancer is part of the family of compounds called "nucleoside analogues" which is very similar to existing drugs for the treatment of HIV and other viruses. EFdA samples were sent for further testing, which confirmed EFdA's potential usefulness against HIV and started more than a decade of research.

EFdA, along with eight existing HIV drugs, is part of the class of compounds called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). NRTIs "hijack" the HIV replicating process by "tricking" building blocks inside the virus. Since EFdA appears similar to those building blocks, the virus is misled into using the imposter, which prevents HIV replication and halts the spread of the virus.

Using a molecule found in soy sauce, Sarafianos and his team are developing compounds that are more potent than Tenofovir, one of the most-used HIV drugs. Credit: Roger Meissen, Bond Life Sciences Center

In their latest study, Sarafianos and his colleagues, including researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the National Institutes of Health, helped define how EFdA works on a molecular level. Using virology techniques and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), they pieced together the exact structure and configuration of the molecule. Compounds developed by Sarafianos and his team currently are being tested for usefulness as potential HIV-halting drugs with pharmaceutical company Merck.

"The structure of this compound is very important because it is a lock-and-key kind of mechanism that can be recognized by the target," Sarafianos said. "EFdA works extremely well on HIV that is not resistant to anti-AIDS drugs, it also works even better on HIV that's become resistant to Tenofovir."

Grants from the National Institutes of Health funded this research which was published the Journals Retrovirology, Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy and The International Journal of Pharmaceutics.

Related Stories

Mutation breaks HIV's resistance to drugs

date Sep 13, 2012

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can contain dozens of different mutations, called polymorphisms. In a recent study an international team of researchers, including MU scientists, found that one of those mutations, called ...

New anti-HIV drug target identified

date Dec 18, 2013

University of Minnesota researchers have discovered a first-of-its-kind series of compounds possessing anti-human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) activity. The compounds present a new target for potential HIV drug development ...

Recommended for you

Indiana HIV outbreak, hepatitis C epidemic sparks US alert

date Apr 24, 2015

Federal health officials helping to contain an HIV outbreak in Indiana state issued an alert to health departments across the U.S. on Friday, urging them to take steps to identify and track HIV and hepatitis C cases in an ...

Why are HIV survival rates lower in the Deep South than the rest of the US?

date Apr 22, 2015

The Deep South region has become the epicenter of the US HIV epidemic. Despite having only 28% of the total US population, nine states in the Deep South account for nearly 40% of national HIV diagnoses. This region has the highest HIV diagnosis rates and the highest number of people living with HIV of any ...

A bad buzz: Men with HIV need fewer drinks to feel effects

date Apr 20, 2015

Researchers at Yale and the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System compared the number of drinks that men with HIV infection, versus those without it, needed to get a buzz. They found that HIV-infected men were more sensitive to ...

Research informs HIV treatment policy for inmates

date Apr 16, 2015

A national, five-year study of care for inmates with HIV brought strangers together, produced policy change in the Delaware Department of Corrections and documented the importance of good communication and ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.