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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Multi-target QSAR modelling in the analysis and design of HIV-HCV co-inhibitors: an in-silico study

Qi Liu1, Han Zhou1, Lin Liu1, Xi Chen2, Ruixin Zhu1* and Zhiwei Cao1*

Author Affiliations

1 College of Life Science and Biotechnology, Tongji University, 200092, China

2 School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2011, 12:294  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-12-294

Published: 20 July 2011



HIV and HCV infections have become the leading global public-health threats. Even more remarkable, HIV-HCV co-infection is rapidly emerging as a major cause of morbidity and mortality throughout the world, due to the common rapid mutation characteristics of the two viruses as well as their similar complex influence to immunology system. Although considerable progresses have been made on the study of the infection of HIV and HCV respectively, few researches have been conducted on the investigation of the molecular mechanism of their co-infection and designing of the multi-target co-inhibitors for the two viruses simultaneously.


In our study, a multi-target Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship (QSAR) study of the inhibitors for HIV-HCV co-infection were addressed with an in-silico machine learning technique, i.e. multi-task learning, to help to guide the co-inhibitor design. Firstly, an integrated dataset with 3 HIV inhibitor subsets targeted on protease, integrase and reverse transcriptase respectively, together with another 6 subsets of 2 HCV inhibitors targeted on NS3 serine protease and NS5B polymerase respectively were compiled. Secondly, an efficient multi-target QSAR modelling of HIV-HCV co-inhibitors was performed by applying an accelerated gradient method based multi-task learning on the whole 9 datasets. Furthermore, by solving the L-1-infinity regularized optimization, the Drug-like index features for compound description were ranked according to their joint importance in multi-target QSAR modelling of HIV and HCV. Finally, a drug structure-activity simulation for investigating the relationships between compound structures and binding affinities was presented based on our multiple target analysis, which is then providing several novel clues for the design of multi-target HIV-HCV co-inhibitors with increasing likelihood of successful therapies on HIV, HCV and HIV-HCV co-infection.


The framework presented in our study provided an efficient way to identify and design inhibitors that simultaneously and selectively bind to multiple targets from multiple viruses with high affinity, and will definitely shed new lights on the future work of inhibitor synthesis for multi-target HIV, HCV, and HIV-HCV co-infection treatments.