Activity and safety of synthetic lectins based on benzoboroxole- functionalized polymers for inhibition of HIV entry

Alamelu Mahalingam, Anthony R. Geonnotti, Jan Balzarini, Patrick F. Kiser*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Lectins derived from plant and microbial sources constitute a vital class of entry inhibitors that target the oligomannose residues on the HIV envelope gp120. Despite their potency and specificity, success of lectin-based entry inhibitors may be impeded by high manufacturing costs, formulation and potential mitogenicity. Therefore, there exists a gap in the HIV microbicides pipeline that underscores the need for mass producible, synthetic, broad-spectrum, and biocomptabile inhibitors of HIV entry. Here, we present the development of a polymeric synthetic lectin, based on benzoboroxole (BzB), which exhibits weak affinity (∼25 M -1) for nonreducing sugars, similar to those found on the HIV envelope. High molecular weight BzB-functionalized polymers demonstrated antiviral activity that increased with an increase in ligand density and molecular weight of the polymer construct, revealing that polyvalency improves activity. Polymers showed significant increase in activity from 25 to 75 mol % BzB functionalization with EC 50 of 15 μM and 15 nM, respectively. A further increase in mole functionalization to 90% resulted in an increase of the EC 50 (59 ± 5 nM). An increase in molecular weight of the polymer at 50 mol % BzB functionalization showed a gradual but significant increase in antiviral activity, with the highest activity seen with the 382 kDa polymer (EC 50 of 1.1 ± 0.5 nM in CEM cells and 11 ± 3 nM in TZM-bl cells). Supplementing the polymer backbone with 10 mol % sulfonic acid not only increased the aqueous solubility of the polymers by at least 50-fold but also demonstrated a synergistic increase in anti-HIV activity (4.0 ± 1.5 nM in TZM-bl cells), possibly due to electrostatic interactions between the negatively charged polymer backbone and the positively charged V3-loop in the gp120. The benzoboroxole-sulfonic acid copolymers showed no decrease in activity in the presence of a seminal concentration of fructose (p > 0.05). Additionally, the copolymers exhibit minimal, if any, effect on the cellular viability, barrier properties, or cytokine levels in human reconstructed ectocervical tissue after 3 days of repeated exposure and did not show pronounced activity against a variety of other RNA and DNA viruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2465-2475
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 5 2011


  • HIV
  • benzoboroxole
  • entry inhibitor
  • polyvalency
  • synthetic lectins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery


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