Maraviroc is a nonpeptidic small molecule human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) entry inhibitor that has just entered the therapeutic arsenal for the treatment of patients. We recently demonstrated that maraviroc binding to the HIV-1 coreceptor, CC chemokine receptor 5 (CCR5), prevents it from binding the chemokine CCL3 and the viral envelope glycoprotein gp120 by an allosteric mechanism. However, incomplete knowledge of ligand-binding sites and the lack of CCR5 crystal structures have hampered an in-depth molecular understanding of how the inhibitor works. Here, we addressed these issues by combining site-directed mutagenesis (SDM) with homology modeling and docking. Six crystal structures of G-protein-coupled receptors were compared for their suitability for CCR5 modeling. All CCR5 models had equally good geometry, but that built from the recently reported dimeric structure of the other HIV-1 coreceptor CXCR4 bound to the peptide CVX15 (Protein Data Bank code 3OE0) best agreed with the SDM data and discriminated CCR5 from non-CCR5 binders in a virtual screening approach. SDM and automated docking predicted that maraviroc inserts deeply in CCR5 transmembrane cavity where it can occupy three different binding sites, whereas CCL3 and gp120 lie on distinct yet overlapped regions of the CCR5 extracellular loop 2. Data suggesting that the transmembrane cavity remains accessible for maraviroc in CCL3-bound and gp120-bound CCR5 help explain our previous observation that the inhibitor enhances dissociation of preformed ligand-CCR5 complexes. Finally, we identified residues in the predicted CCR5 dimer interface that are mandatory for gp120 binding, suggesting that receptor dimerization might represent a target for new CCR5 entry inhibitors.

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