Kinetic Analysis of Mutants of HTLV-I Protease
Herger, Bryan Edward
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Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) is a retrovirus that is the causative agent of the fatal disease adult T-cell leukemia (ATL). HTLV-I silently infects over twenty million people worldwide; up to ten percent of these will develop ATL in their lifetime. There are currently no effective treatments for this disease. HTLV-I expresses its genome as polypeptides that must be processed in order to produce infectious virions. Like other retroviruses, HTLV-I encodes an aspartic acid protease to process these polypeptides into mature form. Because the protease is essential in the virus life cycle, it is an attractive target for the treatment of HTLV-I-induced ATL. The present work examines the structure and function of HTLV-I protease. A theoretical structure of the protease is presented, and the function of the C-terminal extension is considered. In order to determine which residues are involved in binding substrate, two experiments were performed: first, several residues were mutated to the corresponding residues in HIV-1 protease to determine whether HTLV-I protease can be made to process an HIV-1 protease substrate; second, an alanine scan was performed to knock out individual residues to assess their importance in binding substrate. This work builds knowledge of the structure and function of HTLV-I protease. By understanding which residues play a role in binding substrate and by developing a clearer picture of the structure of the protease, it will be possible to develop specific inhibitors for HTLV-I protease.