Researchers who are either developing drug treatments for AIDS or studying the virus that causes the disease have a new resource - an online database of AIDS-related protein structures just unveiled for public use by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Developed in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, the HIV Structural Reference Database will receive, annotate, archive and distribute structural data for proteins involved in making HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, as well as molecules that inhibit these activities. Until now, much of this information was not widely available because it was unpublished. The new database contains data from both the published literature and from direct contributions by industrial and other laboratories.
The database will be especially useful in developing strategies for inhibiting the activities of the HIV protease (see image) that is essential for maturation of HIV. In addition, the database is expected to help scientists understand and circumvent the problem of mutations that make HIV resistant to certain drugs.
NIST scientists annotate the structural data with information from various sources and index—or classify—the entries so that users can reliably find particular structures. They helped to develop a novel technique for indexing HIV protease inhibitors, enabling scientists to rapidly and reliably get data on all enzyme-inhibitor complexes such as a mutant strain that is resistant to a particular drug.
NIST has a long history of producing, evaluating and disseminating chemical data and is increasingly applying this expertise in biosciences. The HIV database is a model for developing and testing new technology to annotate and standardize HIV inhibitor names, and for evaluating structural data for macromolecules.