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The triple combination of tenofovir, emtricitabine and efavirenz shows synergistic anti-HIV-1 activity in vitro: a mechanism of action study

Author(s): Feng Joy | Ly John | Myrick Florence | Goodman Derrick | White Kirsten | Svarovskaia Evguenia | Borroto-Esoda Katyna | Miller Michael

Journal: Retrovirology
ISSN 1742-4690

Volume: 6;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 44;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Abstract Background Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), emtricitabine (FTC), and efavirenz (EFV) are the three components of the once-daily, single tablet regimen (Atripla) for treatment of HIV-1 infection. Previous cell culture studies have demonstrated that the double combination of tenofovir (TFV), the parent drug of TDF, and FTC were additive to synergistic in their anti-HIV activity, which correlated with increased levels of intracellular phosphorylation of both compounds. Results In this study, we demonstrated the combinations of TFV+FTC, TFV+EFV, FTC+EFV, and TFV+FTC+EFV synergistically inhibit HIV replication in cell culture and synergistically inhibit HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) catalyzed DNA synthesis in biochemical assays. Several different methods were applied to define synergy including median-effect analysis, MacSynergy®II and quantitative isobologram analysis. We demonstrated that the enhanced formation of dead-end complexes (DEC) by HIV-1 RT and TFV-terminated DNA in the presence of FTC-triphosphate (TP) could contribute to the synergy observed for the combination of TFV+FTC, possibly through reduced terminal NRTI excision. Furthermore, we showed that EFV facilitated efficient formation of stable, DEC-like complexes by TFV- or FTC-monophosphate (MP)-terminated DNA and this can contribute to the synergistic inhibition of HIV-1 RT by TFV-diphosphate (DP)+EFV and FTC-TP+EFV combinations. Conclusion This study demonstrated a clear correlation between the synergistic antiviral activities of TFV+FTC, TFV+EFV, FTC+EFV, and TFV+FTC+EFV combinations and synergistic HIV-1 RT inhibition at the enzymatic level. We propose the molecular mechanisms for the TFV+FTC+EFV synergy to be a combination of increased levels of the active metabolites TFV-DP and FTC-TP and enhanced DEC formation by a chain-terminated DNA and HIV-1 RT in the presence of the second and the third drug in the combination. This study furthers the understanding of the longstanding observations of synergistic anti-HIV-1 effects of many NRTI+NNRTI and certain NRTI+NRTI combinations in cell culture, and provides biochemical evidence that combinations of anti-HIV agents can increase the intracellular drug efficacy, without increasing the extracellular drug concentrations.
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