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Infectious diseases affect human health despite advances in biomedical research and drug discovery. Among these, viruses are especially difficult to tackle due to the sudden transfer from animals to humans, high mutational rates, resistance to current treatments, and the intricacies of their molecular interactions with the host. As an example of these interactions, we describe a cell-based approach to monitor specific proteolytic events executed by either the viral-encoded protease or by host proteins on the virus. We then emphasize the significance of examining proteolysis within the subcellular compartment where cleavage occurs naturally. We show the power of stable expression, highlighting the usefulness of the cell-based multiplexed approach, which we have adapted to two independent assays previously developed to monitor (a) the activity of the HIV-1-encoded protease or (b) the cleavage of the HIV-1-encoded envelope protein by the host. Multiplexing was achieved by mixing cells each carrying a different assay or, alternatively, by engineering cells expressing two assays. Multiplexing relies on the robustness of the individual assays and their clear discrimination, further enhancing screening capabilities in an attempt to block proteolytic events required for viral infectivity and spread.
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