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1.  A Small-Molecule Inhibitor of Hepatitis C Virus Infectivity 
One of the most challenging goals of hepatitis C virus (HCV) research is to develop well-tolerated regimens with high cure rates across a variety of patient populations. Such a regimen will likely require a combination of at least two distinct direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). Combining two or more DAAs with different resistance profiles increases the number of mutations required for viral breakthrough. Currently, most DAAs inhibit HCV replication. We recently reported that the combination of two distinct classes of HCV inhibitors, entry inhibitors and replication inhibitors, prolonged reductions in extracellular HCV in persistently infected cells. We therefore sought to identify new inhibitors targeting aspects of the HCV replication cycle other than RNA replication. We report here the discovery of the first small-molecule HCV infectivity inhibitor, GS-563253, also called HCV infectivity inhibitor 1 (HCV II-1). HCV II-1 is a substituted tetrahydroquinoline that selectively inhibits genotype 1 and 2 HCVs with low-nanomolar 50% effective concentrations. It was identified through a high-throughput screen and subsequent chemical optimization. HCV II-1 only permits the production and release of noninfectious HCV particles from cells. Moreover, infectious HCV is rapidly inactivated in its presence. HCV II-1 resistance mutations map to HCV E2. In addition, HCV-II prevents HCV endosomal fusion, suggesting that it either locks the viral envelope in its prefusion state or promotes a viral envelope conformation change incapable of fusion. Importantly, the discovery of HCV II-1 opens up a new class of HCV inhibitors that prolong viral suppression by HCV replication inhibitors in persistently infected cell cultures.
PMCID: PMC3910743  PMID: 24165192
3.  Optimized high-throughput screen for Hepatitis C virus translation inhibitors 
Journal of Biomolecular Screening  2011;16(2):211-220.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a considerable global health problem for which new classes of therapeutics are needed. We developed a high-throughput assay to identify compounds that selectively block translation initiation from the HCV internal ribosome entry site (HCV IRES). Rabbit reticulocyte lysate conditions were optimized to faithfully report on authentic HCV IRES-dependent translation relative to a 5′ capped mRNA control. We screened a library of ~430,000 small molecules for IRES inhibition, leading to ~1,700 initial hits. After secondary counter screening the vast majority of hits proved to be luciferase and general translation inhibitors. Despite well-optimized in vitro translation conditions, in the end we found no selective HCV IRES inhibitors but did discover a new scaffold of general translation inhibitor. The analysis of these molecules, and the finding that a large fraction of false positives resulted from off-target effects, highlights the challenges inherent in screens for RNA-specific inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3260011  PMID: 21297107
Hepatitis C virus (HCV); IRES; luciferase; high-throughput screen; rabbit reticulocyte lysate
4.  Novel Hepatitis C Virus Reporter Replicon Cell Lines Enable Efficient Antiviral Screening against Genotype 1a▿  
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) subgenomic replicon is the primary tool for evaluating the activity of anti-HCV compounds in drug discovery research. Despite the prevalence of HCV genotype 1a (∼70% of U.S. HCV patients), few genotype 1a reporter replicon cell lines have been described; this is presumably due to the low replication capacity of such constructs in available Huh-7 cells. In this report, we describe the selection of highly permissive Huh-7 cell lines that support robust replication of genotype 1a subgenomic replicons harboring luciferase reporter genes. These novel cell lines support the replication of multiple genotype 1a replicons (including the H77 and SF9 strains), are significantly more permissive to genotype 1a HCV replication than parental Huh7-Lunet cells, and maintain stable genotype 1a replication levels suitable for antiviral screening. We found that the sensitivity of genotype 1a luciferase replicons to known antivirals was highly consistent between individual genotype 1a clonal cell lines but could vary significantly between genotypes 1a and 1b. Sequencing of the nonstructural region of 12 stable replicon cell clones suggested that the enhanced permissivity is likely due to cellular component(s) in these new cell lines rather than the evolution of novel adaptive mutations in the replicons. These new reagents will enhance drug discovery efforts targeting genotype 1a and facilitate the profiling of compound activity among different HCV genotypes and subtypes.
PMCID: PMC2916306  PMID: 20516274

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