Hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS5B protein is an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) with essential functions in viral genome replication and represents a promising therapeutic target to develop direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). Multiple nonnucleoside inhibitors (NNIs) binding sites have been identified within the polymerase. VX-222 and ANA598 are two NNIs targeting thumb II site and palm I site of HCV NS5B polymerase, respectively. These two molecules have been shown to be very effective in phase II clinical trials. However, the emergence of resistant HCV replicon variants (L419M, M423T, I482L mutants to VX-222 and M414T, M414L, G554D mutants to ANA598) has significantly decreased their efficacy. To elucidate the molecular mechanism about how these mutations influenced the drug binding mode and decreased drug efficacy, we studied the binding modes of VX-222 and ANA598 to wild-type and mutant polymerase by molecular modeling approach. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations results combined with binding free energy calculations indicated that the mutations significantly altered the binding free energy and the interaction for the drugs to polymerase. The further per-residue binding free energy decomposition analysis revealed that the mutations decreased the interactions with several key residues, such as L419, M423, L474, S476, I482, L497, for VX-222 and L384, N411, M414, Y415, Q446, S556, G557 for ANA598. These were the major origins for the resistance to these two drugs. In addition, by analyzing the residue interaction network (RIN) of the complexes between the drugs with wild-type and the mutant polymerase, we found that the mutation residues in the networks involved in the drug resistance possessed a relatively lower size of topology centralities. The shift of betweenness and closeness values of binding site residues in the mutant polymerase is relevant to the mechanism of drug resistance of VX-222 and ANA598. These results can provide an atomic-level understanding about the mechanisms of drug resistance conferred by the studied mutations and will be helpful to design more potent inhibitors which could effectively overcome drug resistance of antivirus agents.
- Binding free energy calculation
- HCV NS5B polymerase
- MD simulation
- Molecular docking
- Mutation-induced drug resistance
- Residue interaction network