Model membrane platforms for biomedicine: case study on antiviral drug development
Jackman, Joshua A.
Date of Issue2012
School of Materials Science and Engineering
School of Biological Sciences
School of Biological Sciences
As one of the most important interfaces in cellular systems, biological membranes have essential functions in many activities such as cellular protection and signaling. Beyond their direct functions, they also serve as scaffolds to support the association of proteins involved in structural support, adhesion, and transport. Unfortunately, biological processes sometimes malfunction and require therapeutic intervention. For those processes which occur within or upon membranes, it is oftentimes difficult to study the mechanism in a biologically relevant, membranous environment. Therefore, the identification of direct therapeutic targets is challenging. In order to overcome this barrier, engineering strategies offer a new approach to interrogate biological activities at membrane interfaces by analyzing them through the principles of the interfacial sciences. Since membranes are complex biological interfaces, the development of simplified model systems which mimic important properties of membranes can enable fundamental characterization of interaction parameters for such processes. We have selected the hepatitis C virus (HCV) as a model viral pathogen to demonstrate how model membrane platforms can aid antiviral drug discovery and development. Responsible for generating the genomic diversity that makes treating HCV infection so difficult, viral replication represents an ideal step in the virus life cycle for therapeutic intervention. To target HCV genome replication, the interaction of viral proteins with model membrane platforms has served as a useful strategy for target identification and characterization. In this review article, we demonstrate how engineering approaches have led to the discovery of a new functional activity encoded within the HCV nonstructural 5A protein. Specifically, its N-terminal amphipathic, α-helix (AH) can rupture lipid vesicles in a size-dependent manner. While this activity has a number of exciting biotechnology and biomedical applications, arguably the most promising one is in antiviral medicine. Based on the similarities between lipid vesicles and the lipid envelopes of virus particles, experimental findings from model membrane platforms led to the prediction that a range of medically important viruses might be susceptible to rupturing treatment with synthetic AH peptide. This hypothesis was tested and validated by molecular virology studies. Broad-spectrum antiviral activity of the AH peptide has been identified against HCV, HIV, herpes simplex virus, and dengue virus, and many more deadly pathogens. As a result, the AH peptide is the first in class of broad-spectrum, lipid envelope-rupturing antiviral agents, and has entered the drug pipeline. In summary, engineering strategies break down complex biological systems into simplified biomimetic models that recapitulate the most important parameters. This approach is particularly advantageous for membrane-associated biological processes because model membrane platforms provide more direct characterization of target interactions than is possible with other methods. Consequently, model membrane platforms hold great promise for solving important biomedical problems and speeding up the translation of biological knowledge into clinical applications.
© 2012 The Authors. This paper was published Biointerphases and is made available as an electronic reprint (preprint) with permission of the Authors. The paper can be found at the following official DOI: [http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13758-011-0018-2]. One print or electronic copy may be made for personal use only. Systematic or multiple reproduction, distribution to multiple locations via electronic or other means, duplication of any material in this paper for a fee or for commercial purposes, or modification of the content of the paper is prohibited and is subject to penalties under law.