HIV-1 replication requires direct interaction between HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) and cellular eukaryotic translation elongation factor 1A (eEF1A). Our previous work showed that disrupting this interaction inhibited HIV-1 uncoating, reverse transcription and replication, indicating its potential as an anti-HIV-1 target. Here we develop a sensitive, live-cell split luciferase complementation assay (NanoBiT) to quantitatively measure inhibition of HIV-1 RT interacting with eEF1A. We used this to screen a small molecule library and discovered small molecule oxazole-benzenesulfonamides (C7, C8, C9), which dose-dependently and specifically inhibited the HIV-1 RT interaction with eEF1A. These compounds directly bound to HIV-1 RT in a dose-dependent manner, as assessed by a biolayer-interferometry (BLI) assay, but did not bind to eEF1A. These oxazole-benzenesulfonamides did not inhibit enzymatic activity of recombinant HIV-1 RT in a homopolymer assay, but did inhibit reverse transcription and infection of both wild type (WT) and NNRTI-resistant HIV-1 in a dose-dependent manner in HEK293T cells. Infection of HeLa cells was significantly inhibited by the oxazole-benzenesulfonamides and the antiviral activity was most potent against replication stages before 8 h post-infection. In human primary activated CD4(+) T cells, C7 inhibited HIV-1 infectivity and replication up to 6 days post-infection. The data suggest a novel mechanism of HIV-1 inhibition and further elucidate how the RT-eEF1A interaction is important for HIV-1 replication. These compounds provide potential to develop a new class of anti-HIV-1 drugs to treat WT and NNRTI-resistant strains in people infected with HIV.IMPORTANCE Antiretroviral drugs protect many HIV-positive people, but their success can be compromised by drug resistant strains. To combat these strains, the development of new classes of HIV-1 inhibitors is essential and a priority in the field. In this study we identified small molecules that bind directly to HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) and inhibit its interaction with cellular eEF1A, an interaction which we have previously identified as crucial for HIV-1 replication. These compounds inhibit intracellular HIV-1 reverse transcription and replication of WT HIV-1, as well as HIV-1 mutants that are resistant to current RT inhibitors. A novel mechanism of action involving inhibition of the HIV-1 RT-eEF1A interaction is an important finding and a potential new way to combat drug-resistant HIV-1 strains in infected people.
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