Cytomegalovirus Protease Targeted Prodrug Development Academic Article uri icon


  • Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a prevalent virus that infects up to 90% of the population. The goal of this research is to determine if small molecular prodrug substrates can be developed for a specific HCMV encoded protease and thus achieve site-specific activation. HCMV encodes a 256 amino acid serine protease that is responsible for capsid assembly, an essential process for herpes virus production. The esterase activity of the more stable HCMV A143T/A144T protease mutant was evaluated with model p-nitrophenol (ONp) esters, Boc-Xaa-ONp (Ala, Leu, Ile, Val, Gln, Phe at the Xaa position). We demonstrate that the A143T/A144T mutant has esterase activity toward specific small ester compounds, e.g., Boc-l-Ala-ONp. Mono amino acid and dipeptide prodrugs of ganciclovir (GCV) were also synthesized and evaluated for hydrolysis by the A143T/A144T protease mutant in solution. Hydrolysis of these prodrugs was also evaluated in Caco-2 cell homogenates, human liver microsomes (HLMs), and rat and human plasma. For the selectivity potential of the prodrugs, the hydrolysis ratio was evaluated as a percentage of prodrug hydrolyzed by the HCMV protease over the percentages of prodrug hydrolyses by Caco-2 cell homogenates, HLMs, and human/rat plasma. A dipeptide prodrug of ganciclovir, Ac-l-Gln-l-Ala-GCV, emerged as a potential selective prodrug candidate. The results of this research demonstrate that targeting prodrugs for activation by a specific protease encoded by the infectious HCMV pathogen may be achievable.

publication date

  • March 13, 2013