Open Access Open Badges Research

A comparison of the ability of rilpivirine (TMC278) and selected analogues to inhibit clinically relevant HIV-1 reverse transcriptase mutants

Barry C Johnson1, Gary T Pauly2, Ganesha Rai3, Disha Patel4, Joseph D Bauman4, Heather L Baker3, Kalyan Das4, Joel P Schneider2, David J Maloney3, Eddy Arnold4, Craig J Thomas3 and Stephen H Hughes1*

Author Affiliations

1 HIV Drug Resistance Program, National Cancer Institute, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, P.O. Box B, Building 539, Room 130A, Frederick, MD, 21702-1201, USA

2 Chemical Biology Laboratory, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, Frederick, MD, USA

3 NIH Chemical Genomics Center, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, NIH, 9800 Medical Center Drive, Bethesda, MD, MSC 3370, USA

4 Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine and Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Retrovirology 2012, 9:99  doi:10.1186/1742-4690-9-99

Published: 5 December 2012



The recently approved anti-AIDS drug rilpivirine (TMC278, Edurant) is a nonnucleoside inhibitor (NNRTI) that binds to reverse transcriptase (RT) and allosterically blocks the chemical step of DNA synthesis. In contrast to earlier NNRTIs, rilpivirine retains potency against well-characterized, clinically relevant RT mutants. Many structural analogues of rilpivirine are described in the patent literature, but detailed analyses of their antiviral activities have not been published. This work addresses the ability of several of these analogues to inhibit the replication of wild-type (WT) and drug-resistant HIV-1.


We used a combination of structure activity relationships and X-ray crystallography to examine NNRTIs that are structurally related to rilpivirine to determine their ability to inhibit WT RT and several clinically relevant RT mutants. Several analogues showed broad activity with only modest losses of potency when challenged with drug-resistant viruses. Structural analyses (crystallography or modeling) of several analogues whose potencies were reduced by RT mutations provide insight into why these compounds were less effective.


Subtle variations between compounds can lead to profound differences in their activities and resistance profiles. Compounds with larger substitutions replacing the pyrimidine and benzonitrile groups of rilpivirine, which reorient pocket residues, tend to lose more activity against the mutants we tested. These results provide a deeper understanding of how rilpivirine and related compounds interact with the NNRTI binding pocket and should facilitate development of novel inhibitors.

HIV; Reverse transcriptase; Rilpivirine