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1.  In vitro characterisation of a pleconaril/pirodavir-like compound with potent activity against rhinoviruses 
Virology Journal  2015;12:106.
Rhinovirus infections do not only cause common colds, but may also trigger severe exacerbations of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Even though rhinoviruses have been the focus of extensive drug development efforts in the past, an anti-rhinoviral drug still has to make it to the market. In the past, the viral capsid protein VP1 has been shown to be an important target for the development of antiviral molecules. Furthermore, many different chemical scaffolds appear to possess the properties that are required to inhibit virus replication by this mechanism of action. I-6602, an analogue of the rhinovirus inhibitor pirodavir, was previously identified as a potent inhibitor of rhinovirus infection. Here, we describe the antiviral activity of its analogue ca603, a molecule with a modified linker structure, and corroborate its mechanism of action as a capsid binder.
The molecule ca603 shows antiviral activity against a panel of rhino-and enteroviruses. Cross-resistance is observed against viruses with mutations that render them resistant to the inhibitory effect of the capsid binder pleconaril and thermostability assays demonstrate that the compound binds and stabilizes the viral capsid. Binding of the molecule to the VP1 protein is corroborated by in silico modeling.
It is confirmed that ca603 inhibits rhinovirus replication by interaction with the VP1 protein and, by this, allows to further expand the chemical diversity of capsid-binding molecules.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12985-015-0330-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4501209  PMID: 26169596
2.  The Capsid Binder Vapendavir and the Novel Protease Inhibitor SG85 Inhibit Enterovirus 71 Replication 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2014;58(11):6990-6992.
Antivirals against enterovirus 71 (EV71) are urgently needed. We demonstrate that the novel enteroviral protease inhibitor (PI) SG85 and capsid binder (CB) vapendavir efficiently inhibit the in vitro replication of 21 EV71 strains/isolates that are representative of the different genogroups A, B, and C. The PI rupintrivir, the CB pirodavir, and the host-targeting compound enviroxime, which were included as reference compounds, also inhibited the replication of all isolates. Remarkably, the CB compound pleconaril was devoid of any anti-EV71 activity. An in silico docking study revealed that pleconaril—unlike vapendavir and pirodavir—lacks essential binding interactions with the viral capsid. Vapendavir and SG85 (or analogues) should be further explored for the treatment of EV71 infections. The data presented here may serve as a reference when developing yet-novel inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC4249361  PMID: 25199773
3.  Molecular Chaperone Hsp90 Is a Therapeutic Target for Noroviruses 
Journal of Virology  2015;89(12):6352-6363.
Human noroviruses (HuNoV) are a significant cause of acute gastroenteritis in the developed world, and yet our understanding of the molecular pathways involved in norovirus replication and pathogenesis has been limited by the inability to efficiently culture these viruses in the laboratory. Using the murine norovirus (MNV) model, we have recently identified a network of host factors that interact with the 5′ and 3′ extremities of the norovirus RNA genome. In addition to a number of well-known cellular RNA binding proteins, the molecular chaperone Hsp90 was identified as a component of the ribonucleoprotein complex. Here, we show that the inhibition of Hsp90 activity negatively impacts norovirus replication in cell culture. Small-molecule-mediated inhibition of Hsp90 activity using 17-DMAG (17-dimethylaminoethylamino-17-demethoxygeldanamycin) revealed that Hsp90 plays a pleiotropic role in the norovirus life cycle but that the stability of the viral capsid protein is integrally linked to Hsp90 activity. Furthermore, we demonstrate that both the MNV-1 and the HuNoV capsid proteins require Hsp90 activity for their stability and that targeting Hsp90 in vivo can significantly reduce virus replication. In summary, we demonstrate that targeting cellular proteostasis can inhibit norovirus replication, identifying a potential novel therapeutic target for the treatment of norovirus infections.
IMPORTANCE HuNoV are a major cause of acute gastroenteritis around the world. RNA viruses, including noroviruses, rely heavily on host cell proteins and pathways for all aspects of their life cycle. Here, we identify one such protein, the molecular chaperone Hsp90, as an important factor required during the norovirus life cycle. We demonstrate that both murine and human noroviruses require the activity of Hsp90 for the stability of their capsid proteins. Furthermore, we demonstrate that targeting Hsp90 activity in vivo using small molecule inhibitors also reduces infectious virus production. Given the considerable interest in the development of Hsp90 inhibitors for use in cancer therapeutics, we identify here a new target that could be explored for the development of antiviral strategies to control norovirus outbreaks and treat chronic norovirus infection in immunosuppressed patients.
PMCID: PMC4474317  PMID: 25855731
4.  The RNA Template Channel of the RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase as a Target for Development of Antiviral Therapy of Multiple Genera within a Virus Family 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(3):e1004733.
The genus Enterovirus of the family Picornaviridae contains many important human pathogens (e.g., poliovirus, coxsackievirus, rhinovirus, and enterovirus 71) for which no antiviral drugs are available. The viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase is an attractive target for antiviral therapy. Nucleoside-based inhibitors have broad-spectrum activity but often exhibit off-target effects. Most non-nucleoside inhibitors (NNIs) target surface cavities, which are structurally more flexible than the nucleotide-binding pocket, and hence have a more narrow spectrum of activity and are more prone to resistance development. Here, we report a novel NNI, GPC-N114 (2,2'-[(4-chloro-1,2-phenylene)bis(oxy)]bis(5-nitro-benzonitrile)) with broad-spectrum activity against enteroviruses and cardioviruses (another genus in the picornavirus family). Surprisingly, coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3) and poliovirus displayed a high genetic barrier to resistance against GPC-N114. By contrast, EMCV, a cardiovirus, rapidly acquired resistance due to mutations in 3Dpol. In vitro polymerase activity assays showed that GPC-N114 i) inhibited the elongation activity of recombinant CVB3 and EMCV 3Dpol, (ii) had reduced activity against EMCV 3Dpol with the resistance mutations, and (iii) was most efficient in inhibiting 3Dpol when added before the RNA template-primer duplex. Elucidation of a crystal structure of the inhibitor bound to CVB3 3Dpol confirmed the RNA-binding channel as the target for GPC-N114. Docking studies of the compound into the crystal structures of the compound-resistant EMCV 3Dpol mutants suggested that the resistant phenotype is due to subtle changes that interfere with the binding of GPC-N114 but not of the RNA template-primer. In conclusion, this study presents the first NNI that targets the RNA template channel of the picornavirus polymerase and identifies a new pocket that can be used for the design of broad-spectrum inhibitors. Moreover, this study provides important new insight into the plasticity of picornavirus polymerases at the template binding site.
Author Summary
Virus replication relies on multiplication of viral genomes by viral polymerases. For enteroviruses, a large group of clinically important human pathogens for which no antiviral therapy is available, this function is performed by 3Dpol, the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. 3Dpol is therefore an attractive target for novel antiviral strategies. Most polymerase inhibitors identified today are nucleoside analogs, a class of compounds that exert broad-spectrum activity but often suffer from off-target effects. Non-nucleoside inhibitors on the other hand, in general have a more narrow spectrum of activity and are more prone to resistance development because in most cases they bind the surface of the enzyme which is less conserved and structurally more flexible. In this study, we present the identification of GPC-N114 as a non-nucleoside inhibitor of 3Dpol with broad-spectrum antiviral activity against both enteroviruses and cardioviruses, which also belong to the picornavirus family. Remarkably, it acts by targeting the RNA template-primer binding site in the core of 3Dpol, making GPC-N114 the first anti-picornaviral compound with this mechanism of action. Thus, the characterization of GPC-N114 has led to the identification of a novel drug-binding pocket in 3Dpol that can serve as a starting point for antiviral drug design.
PMCID: PMC4370873  PMID: 25799064
5.  New Pyrazolobenzothiazine Derivatives as Hepatitis C Virus NS5B Polymerase Palm Site I Inhibitors 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2014;57(8):3247-3262.
We have previously identified the pyrazolobenzothiazine scaffold as a promising chemotype against hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS5B polymerase, a validated and promising anti-HCV target. Herein we describe the design, synthesis, enzymatic, and cellular characterization of new pyrazolobenzothiazines as anti-HCV inhibitors. The binding site for a representative derivative was mapped to NS5B palm site I employing a mutant counterscreen assay, thus validating our previous in silico predictions. Derivative 2b proved to be the best selective anti-HCV derivative within the new series, exhibiting a IC50 of 7.9 μM against NS5B polymerase and antiviral effect (EC50 = 8.1 μM; EC90 = 23.3 μM) coupled with the absence of any antimetabolic effect (CC50 > 224 μM; SI > 28) in a cell based HCV replicon system assay. Significantly, microscopic analysis showed that, unlike the parent compounds, derivative 2b did not show any significant cell morphological alterations. Furthermore, since most of the pyrazolobenzothiazines tested altered cell morphology, this undesired aspect was further investigated by exploring possible perturbation of lipid metabolism during compound treatment.
PMCID: PMC4203399  PMID: 24654886
6.  The Versatile Nature of the 6-Aminoquinolone Scaffold: Identification of Submicromolar Hepatitis C Virus NS5B Inhibitors 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;57(5):1952-1963.
We have previously reported that the 6-aminoquinolone chemotype is a privileged scaffold to obtain antibacterial and antiviral agents. Herein we describe the design, synthesis, enzymatic and cellular characterization of new 6-aminoquinolone derivatives as potent inhibitors of NS5B polymerase, an attractive and viable therapeutic target to develop safe anti-HCV agents. The 6-amino-7-[4-(2-pyridinyl)-1-piperazinyl] quinolone derivative 8 proved to be the best compound of this series, exhibiting IC50 value of 0.069 µM against NS5B polymerase and selective antiviral effect (EC50 = 3.03 µM, EC90 =13.5 µM) coupled with the absence of any cytostatic effect (CC50 >163 µM, SI >54) in Huh-9-13 cells carrying a HCV genotype 1b, as measured by MTS assay. These results indicate that the 6-aminoquinolone scaffold is worthy of further investigation in the context of NS5B-targeted HCV drug discovery programs.
PMCID: PMC3954902  PMID: 24131104
Hepatitis C virus; RNA-dependent RNA polymerase; quinolones; NS5B inhibitors; induced-fit docking
7.  Synergy of entry inhibitors with direct-acting antivirals uncovers novel combinations for prevention and treatment of hepatitis C 
Gut  2014;64(3):483-494.
Although direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs) have markedly improved the outcome of treatment in chronic HCV infection, there continues to be an unmet medical need for improved therapies in difficult-to-treat patients as well as liver graft infection. Viral entry is a promising target for antiviral therapy.
Aiming to explore the role of entry inhibitors for future clinical development, we investigated the antiviral efficacy and toxicity of entry inhibitors in combination with DAAs or other host-targeting agents (HTAs). Screening a large series of combinations of entry inhibitors with DAAs or other HTAs, we uncovered novel combinations of antivirals for prevention and treatment of HCV infection.
Combinations of DAAs or HTAs and entry inhibitors including CD81-, scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI)- or claudin-1 (CLDN1)-specific antibodies or small-molecule inhibitors erlotinib and dasatinib were characterised by a marked and synergistic inhibition of HCV infection over a broad range of concentrations with undetectable toxicity in experimental designs for prevention and treatment both in cell culture models and in human liver-chimeric uPA/SCID mice.
Our results provide a rationale for the development of antiviral strategies combining entry inhibitors with DAAs or HTAs by taking advantage of synergy. The uncovered combinations provide perspectives for efficient strategies to prevent liver graft infection and novel interferon-free regimens.
PMCID: PMC4345833  PMID: 24848265
8.  Screening of an FDA-Approved Compound Library Identifies Four Small-Molecule Inhibitors of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Replication in Cell Culture 
Coronaviruses can cause respiratory and enteric disease in a wide variety of human and animal hosts. The 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) first demonstrated the potentially lethal consequences of zoonotic coronavirus infections in humans. In 2012, a similar previously unknown coronavirus emerged, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), thus far causing over 650 laboratory-confirmed infections, with an unexplained steep rise in the number of cases being recorded over recent months. The human MERS fatality rate of ∼30% is alarmingly high, even though many deaths were associated with underlying medical conditions. Registered therapeutics for the treatment of coronavirus infections are not available. Moreover, the pace of drug development and registration for human use is generally incompatible with strategies to combat emerging infectious diseases. Therefore, we have screened a library of 348 FDA-approved drugs for anti-MERS-CoV activity in cell culture. If such compounds proved sufficiently potent, their efficacy might be directly assessed in MERS patients. We identified four compounds (chloroquine, chlorpromazine, loperamide, and lopinavir) inhibiting MERS-CoV replication in the low-micromolar range (50% effective concentrations [EC50s], 3 to 8 μM). Moreover, these compounds also inhibit the replication of SARS coronavirus and human coronavirus 229E. Although their protective activity (alone or in combination) remains to be assessed in animal models, our findings may offer a starting point for treatment of patients infected with zoonotic coronaviruses like MERS-CoV. Although they may not necessarily reduce viral replication to very low levels, a moderate viral load reduction may create a window during which to mount a protective immune response.
PMCID: PMC4136071  PMID: 24841269
9.  Synthesis and antiviral activities of new acyclic and “double-headed” nucleoside analogues 
Bioorganic chemistry  2006;35(3):221-232.
To develop an understanding of the structure-activity relationships for the inhibition of orthopoxviruses by nucleoside analogues, a variety of novel chemical entities were synthesized. These included a series of pyrimidine 5-hypermodified acyclic nucleoside analogues based upon recently discovered new leads, and some previously unknown “double-headed” or “abbreviated” nucleosides. None of the synthetic products possessed significant activity against two representative orthopoxviruses; namely, vaccinia virus and cowpox virus. They were also devoid of significant activity against a battery of other DNA and RNA viruses. So far as the results with the orthopoxviruses and herpes viruses, the results may point to the necessity for nucleoside analogues 5′-phosphorylation for antiviral efficacy.
PMCID: PMC4265801  PMID: 17270235
Smallpox; Vaccinia virus; Cowpox virus; Thymidine kinase
10.  Synthesis and evaluation of imidazole-4,5- and pyrazine-2,3-dicarboxamides targeting dengue and yellow fever virus☆ 
The results of a high-throughput screening assay using the dengue virus-2 replicon showed that the imidazole 4,5-dicarboxamide (I45DC) derivative (15a) has a high dengue virus inhibitory activity. Based on 15a as a lead compound, a novel class of both disubstituted I45DCs and the resembling pyrazine 2,3-dicarboxamides (P23DCs) were synthesized. Here, we report on their in vitro inhibitory activity against dengue virus (DENV) and yellow fever virus (YFV). Some of these first generation compounds have shown activity against both viruses in the micromolar range. Within this series, compound 15b was observed to display the highest antiviral potency against YFV with an EC50 = 1.85 μM. In addition, compounds 20a and 20b both potently inhibited replication of DENV (EC50 = 0.93 μM) in Vero cells.
Graphical abstract
•Two new series of heterocycles were evaluated for Flavivirus inhibition.•Activities at micromolar levels were noted for inhibition of dengue virus.•Remarkable selective inhibitory properties for yellow fever virus were recorded.•Imidazole-4,5-dicarboxylic amides provide an interesting scaffold for antivirals.•Pyrazine-2,3-dicarboxylic amides likewise are endowed with anti-flavivirus activities.
PMCID: PMC4237513  PMID: 25285371
Flavivirus inhibitors; Dengue virus; Yellow fever virus; Imidazole dicarboxylic acid; Pyrazine dicarboxylic acid
11.  Complete Genome Sequence of a Rat Hepatitis E Virus Strain Isolated in the United States 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(6):e01096-14.
Hepatitis E virus is a common cause of acute hepatitis in humans. Related viruses have been isolated from multiple animal species, including rats, but their impact on human health is unclear. We present the first full-length genome sequence of a rat hepatitis E virus strain isolated in the United States (LA-B350).
PMCID: PMC4223451  PMID: 25377700
12.  Fitness and Virulence of a Coxsackievirus Mutant That Can Circumnavigate the Need for Phosphatidylinositol 4-Kinase Class III Beta 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(5):3048-3051.
Coxsackieviruses require phosphatidylinositol-4-kinase IIIβ (PI4KIIIβ) for replication but can bypass this need by an H57Y mutation in protein 3A (3A-H57Y). We show that mutant coxsackievirus is not outcompeted by wild-type virus during 10 passages in vitro. In mice, the mutant virus proved as virulent as wild-type virus, even when mice were treated with a PI4KIIIβ inhibitor. Our data suggest that upon emergence, the 3A-H57Y mutant has the fitness to establish a resistant population with a virulence similar to that of wild-type virus.
PMCID: PMC3958056  PMID: 24371067
13.  Identification of a Series of Compounds with Potent Antiviral Activity for the Treatment of Enterovirus Infections 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2013;4(7):585-589.
Rhinovirus (genus enterovirus) infections are responsible for many of the severe exacerbations of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Other members of the genus can cause life-threatening acute neurological infections. There is currently no antiviral drug approved for the treatment of such infections. We have identified a series of potent, broad-spectrum antiviral compounds that inhibit the replication of the human rhinovirus, Coxsackie virus, poliovirus, and enterovirus-71. The mechanism of action of the compounds has been established as inhibition of a lipid kinase, PI4KIIIβ. Inhibition of hepatitis C replication in a replicon assay correlated with enterovirus inhibition.
PMCID: PMC4030314  PMID: 24900715
antiviral; enterovirus; HCV; inhibitor; PI4KIIIβ
14.  Ribavirin Inhibits In Vitro Hepatitis E Virus Replication through Depletion of Cellular GTP Pools and Is Moderately Synergistic with Alpha Interferon 
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a common cause of acute hepatitis that results in high mortality in pregnant women and may establish chronic infections in immunocompromised patients. We demonstrate for the first time that alpha interferon (IFN-α) and ribavirin inhibit in vitro HEV replication in both a subgenomic replicon and an infectious culture system based on a genotype 3 strain. IFN-α showed a moderate but significant synergism with ribavirin. These findings corroborate the reported clinical effectiveness of both drugs. In addition, the antiviral activity of ribavirin against wild-type genotype 1, 2, and 3 strains was confirmed by immunofluorescence staining. Furthermore, the in vitro activity of ribavirin depends on depletion of intracellular GTP pools, which is evident from the facts that (i) other GTP-depleting agents (5-ethynyl-1-β-d-ribofuranosylimidazole-4-carboxamide [EICAR] and mycophenolic acid) inhibit viral replication, (ii) exogenously added guanosine reverses the antiviral effects, and (iii) a strong correlation (R2 = 0.9998) exists between the antiviral activity and GTP depletion of ribavirin and other GTP-depleting agents.
PMCID: PMC3910773  PMID: 24145541
15.  The Viral Polymerase Inhibitor 2′-C-Methylcytidine Inhibits Norwalk Virus Replication and Protects against Norovirus-Induced Diarrhea and Mortality in a Mouse Model 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(21):11798-11805.
Human noroviruses are a major cause of food-borne illness, accountable for 50% of all-etiologies outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis (in both developing and developed countries). There is no vaccine or antiviral drug for the prophylaxis or treatment of norovirus-induced gastroenteritis. We recently reported the inhibitory effect of 2′-C-methylcytidine (2CMC), a hepatitis C virus polymerase inhibitor, on the in vitro replication of murine norovirus (MNV). Here we evaluated the inhibitory effect of 2CMC on in vitro human norovirus replication through a Norwalk virus replicon model and in a mouse model by using AG129 mice orally infected with MNV. Survival, weight, and fecal consistency were monitored, and viral loads in stool samples and organs were quantified. Intestines were examined histologically. 2CMC reduced Norwalk virus replicon replication in a dose-dependent manner and was able to clear cells of the replicon. Treatment of MNV-infected AG129 mice with 2CMC (i) prevented norovirus-induced diarrhea; (ii) markedly delayed the appearance of viral RNA and reduced viral RNA titers in the intestine, mesenteric lymph nodes, spleen, lungs, and stool; (iii) completely prevented virus-induced mortality; and (iv) resulted in protective immunity against a rechallenge. We demonstrate for the first time that a small-molecule inhibitor of norovirus replication protects from virus-induced disease and mortality in a relevant animal model. These findings pave the way for the development of potent and safe antivirals as prophylaxis and therapy of norovirus infection.
PMCID: PMC3807313  PMID: 23986582
16.  Binding of Glutathione to Enterovirus Capsids Is Essential for Virion Morphogenesis 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(4):e1004039.
Enteroviruses (family of the Picornaviridae) cover a large group of medically important human pathogens for which no antiviral treatment is approved. Although these viruses have been extensively studied, some aspects of the viral life cycle, in particular morphogenesis, are yet poorly understood. We report the discovery of TP219 as a novel inhibitor of the replication of several enteroviruses, including coxsackievirus and poliovirus. We show that TP219 binds directly glutathione (GSH), thereby rapidly depleting intracellular GSH levels and that this interferes with virus morphogenesis without affecting viral RNA replication. The inhibitory effect on assembly was shown not to depend on an altered reducing environment. Using TP219, we show that GSH is an essential stabilizing cofactor during the transition of protomeric particles into pentameric particles. Sequential passaging of coxsackievirus B3 in the presence of low GSH-levels selected for GSH-independent mutants that harbored a surface-exposed methionine in VP1 at the interface between two protomers. In line with this observation, enteroviruses that already contained this surface-exposed methionine, such as EV71, did not rely on GSH for virus morphogenesis. Biochemical and microscopical analysis provided strong evidence for a direct interaction between GSH and wildtype VP1 and a role for this interaction in localizing assembly intermediates to replication sites. Consistently, the interaction between GSH and mutant VP1 was abolished resulting in a relocalization of the assembly intermediates to replication sites independent from GSH. This study thus reveals GSH as a novel stabilizing host factor essential for the production of infectious enterovirus progeny and provides new insights into the poorly understood process of morphogenesis.
Author Summary
Enteroviruses contain many significant human pathogens, including poliovirus, enterovirus 71, coxsackieviruses and rhinoviruses. Most enterovirus infections subside mild or asymptomatically, but may also result in severe morbidity and mortality. Here, we report on the mechanism of antiviral action of a small molecule, TP219, as an inhibitor of enterovirus morphogenesis. Morphogenesis represents an important stage at the end of the virus replication cycle and requires multiple steps, of which some are only poorly understood. Better understanding of this process holds much potential to facilitate the development of new therapies to combat enterovirus infections. We demonstrate that TP219 rapidly depletes intracellular glutathione (GSH) by covalently binding free GSH resulting in the inhibition of virus morphogenesis without affecting viral RNA replication. We discovered that GSH directly interacts with viral capsid precursors and mature virions and that this interaction is required for the formation of an assembly intermediate (pentameric particles) and consequently infectious progeny. Remarkably, enteroviruses that were capable of replicating in the absence of GSH contained a surface-exposed methionine at the protomeric interface. We propose that GSH is an essential and stabilizing host factor during morphogenesis and that this stabilization is a prerequisite for a functional encapsidation of progeny viral RNA.
PMCID: PMC3983060  PMID: 24722756
17.  A Novel, Broad-Spectrum Inhibitor of Enterovirus Replication That Targets Host Cell Factor Phosphatidylinositol 4-Kinase IIIβ 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2013;57(10):4971-4981.
Despite their high clinical and socioeconomic impacts, there is currently no approved antiviral therapy for the prophylaxis or treatment of enterovirus infections. Here we report on a novel inhibitor of enterovirus replication, compound 1, 2-fluoro-4-(2-methyl-8-(3-(methylsulfonyl)benzylamino)imidazo[1,2-a]pyrazin-3-yl)phenol. This compound exhibited a broad spectrum of antiviral activity, as it inhibited all tested species of enteroviruses and rhinoviruses, with 50% effective concentrations ranging between 4 and 71 nM. After a lengthy resistance selection process, coxsackievirus mutants resistant to compound 1 were isolated that carried substitutions in their 3A protein. Remarkably, the same substitutions were recently shown to provide resistance to inhibitors of phosphatidylinositol 4-kinase IIIβ (PI4KIIIβ), a lipid kinase that is essential for enterovirus replication, suggesting that compound 1 may also target this host factor. Accordingly, compound 1 directly inhibited PI4KIIIβ in an in vitro kinase activity assay. Furthermore, the compound strongly reduced the PI 4-phosphate levels of the Golgi complex in cells. Rescue of coxsackievirus replication in the presence of compound 1 by a mutant PI4KIIIβ carrying a substitution in its ATP-binding pocket revealed that the compound directly binds the kinase at this site. Finally, we determined that an analogue of compound 1, 3-(3-fluoro-4-methoxyphenyl)-2-methyl-N-(pyridin-4-ylmethyl)imidazo[1,2-a]pyrazin-8-amine, is well tolerated in mice and has a dose-dependent protective activity in a coxsackievirus serotype B4-induced pancreatitis model.
PMCID: PMC3811463  PMID: 23896472
18.  Structure-based discovery of pyrazolobenzothiazine derivatives as inhibitors of hepatitis C virus replication 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(6):2270-2282.
The NS5B RNA-dependent RNA polymerase is an attractive target for the development of novel and selective inhibitors of hepatitis C virus replication. In order to identify novel structural hits as anti-HCV agents, we performed structure-based virtual screening of our in-house library followed by rational drug design, organic synthesis and biological testing. These studies led to the identification of pyrazolobenzothiazine scaffold as a suitable template for obtaining novel anti-HCV agents targeting the NS5B polymerase. The best compound of this series was the meta-fluoro-N-1-phenyl pyrazolobenzothiazine derivative 4a, which exhibited an EC50= 3.6 µM, EC90= 25.6 µM and CC50 > 180 µM in the Huh 9–13 replicon system, thus providing a good starting point for further hit evolution.
PMCID: PMC3627225  PMID: 23409936
Hepatitis C virus; RNA-dependent RNA polymerase; structure-based drug discovery; virtual screening; NS5B inhibitors; pyrazolobenzothiazines
19.  Phosphatidylinositol 4-Kinase III Beta Is Essential for Replication of Human Rhinovirus and Its Inhibition Causes a Lethal Phenotype In Vivo 
Human rhinovirus (HRV) is the predominant cause of the common cold, but more importantly, infection may have serious repercussions in asthmatics and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) patients. A cell-based antiviral screen against HRV was performed with a subset of our proprietary compound collection, and an aminothiazole series with pan-HRV species and enteroviral activity was identified. The series was found to act at the level of replication in the HRV infectious cycle. In vitro selection and sequencing of aminothiazole series-resistant HRV variants revealed a single-nucleotide mutation leading to the amino acid change I42V in the essential HRV 3A protein. This same mutation has been previously implicated in resistance to enviroxime, a former clinical-stage antipicornavirus agent. Enviroxime-like compounds have recently been shown to target the lipid kinase phosphatidylinositol 4-kinase III beta (PI4KIIIβ). A good correlation between PI4KIIIβ activity and HRV antiviral potency was found when analyzing the data over 80 compounds of the aminothiazole series, covering a 750-fold potency range. The mechanism of action through PI4KIIIβ inhibition was further demonstrated by small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown of PI4KB, which reduced HRV replication and also increased the potency of the PI4KIIIβ inhibitors. Inhibitors from two different structural classes with promising pharmacokinetic profiles and with very good selectivity for PI4KIIIβ were used to dissociate compound-related toxicity from target-related toxicity. Mortality was seen in all dosing groups of mice treated with either compound, therefore suggesting that short-term inhibition of PI4KIIIβ is deleterious.
PMCID: PMC3697394  PMID: 23650168
20.  Artemisinin Analogues as Potent Inhibitors of In Vitro Hepatitis C Virus Replication 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81783.
We reported previously that Artemisinin (ART), a widely used anti-malarial drug, is an inhibitor of in vitro HCV subgenomic replicon replication. We here demonstrate that ART exerts its antiviral activity also in hepatoma cells infected with full length infectious HCV JFH-1. We identified a number of ART analogues that are up to 10-fold more potent and selective as in vitro inhibitors of HCV replication than ART. The iron donor Hemin only marginally potentiates the anti-HCV activity of ART in HCV-infected cultures. Carbon-centered radicals have been shown to be critical for the anti-malarial activity of ART. We demonstrate that carbon-centered radicals-trapping (the so-called TEMPO) compounds only marginally affect the anti-HCV activity of ART. This provides evidence that carbon-centered radicals are not the main effectors of the anti-HCV activity of the Artemisinin. ART and analogues may possibly exert their anti-HCV activity by the induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The combined anti-HCV activity of ART or its analogues with L-N-Acetylcysteine (L-NAC) [a molecule that inhibits ROS generation] was studied. L-NAC significantly reduced the in vitro anti-HCV activity of ART and derivatives. Taken together, the in vitro anti-HCV activity of ART and analogues can, at least in part, be explained by the induction of ROS; carbon-centered radicals may not be important in the anti-HCV effect of these molecules.
PMCID: PMC3859510  PMID: 24349127
21.  Coxsackievirus mutants that can bypass host factor PI4KIIIβ and the need for high levels of PI4P lipids for replication 
Cell Research  2012;22(11):1576-1592.
RNA viruses can rapidly mutate and acquire resistance to drugs that directly target viral enzymes, which poses serious problems in a clinical context. Therefore, there is a growing interest in the development of antiviral drugs that target host factors critical for viral replication, since they are unlikely to mutate in response to therapy. We recently demonstrated that phosphatidylinositol-4-kinase IIIβ (PI4KIIIβ) and its product phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate (PI4P) are essential for replication of enteroviruses, a group of medically important RNA viruses including poliovirus (PV), coxsackievirus, rhinovirus, and enterovirus 71. Here, we show that enviroxime and GW5074 decreased PI4P levels at the Golgi complex by directly inhibiting PI4KIIIβ. Coxsackievirus mutants resistant to these inhibitors harbor single point mutations in the non-structural protein 3A. These 3A mutations did not confer compound-resistance by restoring the activity of PI4KIIIβ in the presence of the compounds. Instead, replication of the mutant viruses no longer depended on PI4KIIIβ, since their replication was insensitive to siRNA-mediated depletion of PI4KIIIβ. The mutant viruses also did not rely on other isoforms of PI4K. Consistently, no high level of PI4P could be detected at the replication sites induced by the mutant viruses in the presence of the compounds. Collectively, these findings indicate that through specific single point mutations in 3A, CVB3 can bypass an essential host factor and lipid for its propagation, which is a new example of RNA viruses acquiring resistance against antiviral compounds, even when they directly target host factors.
PMCID: PMC3494396  PMID: 22945356
Enterovirus; replication; membranes; host factor PI4KIIIβ; PI4P lipids
22.  Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Fluoxetine Inhibits Replication of Human Enteroviruses B and D by Targeting Viral Protein 2C 
Although the genus Enterovirus contains many important human pathogens, there is no licensed drug for either the treatment or the prophylaxis of enterovirus infections. We report that fluoxetine (Prozac)—a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor—inhibits the replication of human enterovirus B (HEV-B) and HEV-D but does not affect the replication of HEV-A and HEV-C or human rhinovirus A or B. We show that fluoxetine interferes with viral RNA replication, and we identified viral protein 2C as the target of this compound.
PMCID: PMC3623316  PMID: 23335743
23.  3C Protease of Enterovirus 68: Structure-Based Design of Michael Acceptor Inhibitors and Their Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Effects against Picornaviruses 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(8):4339-4351.
We have determined the cleavage specificity and the crystal structure of the 3C protease of enterovirus 68 (EV68 3Cpro). The protease exhibits a typical chymotrypsin fold with a Cys...His...Glu catalytic triad; its three-dimensional structure is closely related to that of the 3Cpro of rhinovirus 2, as well as to that of poliovirus. The phylogenetic position of the EV68 3Cpro between the corresponding enzymes of rhinoviruses on the one hand and classical enteroviruses on the other prompted us to use the crystal structure for the design of irreversible inhibitors, with the goal of discovering broad-spectrum antiviral compounds. We synthesized a series of peptidic α,β-unsaturated ethyl esters of increasing length and for each inhibitor candidate, we determined a crystal structure of its complex with the EV68 3Cpro, which served as the basis for the next design round. To exhibit inhibitory activity, compounds must span at least P3 to P1′; the most potent inhibitors comprise P4 to P1′. Inhibitory activities were found against the purified 3C protease of EV68, as well as with replicons for poliovirus and EV71 (50% effective concentration [EC50] = 0.5 μM for the best compound). Antiviral activities were determined using cell cultures infected with EV71, poliovirus, echovirus 11, and various rhinovirus serotypes. The most potent inhibitor, SG85, exhibited activity with EC50s of ≈180 nM against EV71 and ≈60 nM against human rhinovirus 14 in a live virus–cell-based assay. Even the shorter SG75, spanning only P3 to P1′, displayed significant activity (EC50 = 2 to 5 μM) against various rhinoviruses.
PMCID: PMC3624371  PMID: 23388726
24.  Ivermectin is a potent inhibitor of flavivirus replication specifically targeting NS3 helicase activity: new prospects for an old drug 
Infection with yellow fever virus (YFV), the prototypic mosquito-borne flavivirus, causes severe febrile disease with haemorrhage, multi-organ failure and a high mortality. Moreover, in recent years the Flavivirus genus has gained further attention due to re-emergence and increasing incidence of West Nile, dengue and Japanese encephalitis viruses. Potent and safe antivirals are urgently needed.
Starting from the crystal structure of the NS3 helicase from Kunjin virus (an Australian variant of West Nile virus), we identified a novel, unexploited protein site that might be involved in the helicase catalytic cycle and could thus in principle be targeted for enzyme inhibition. In silico docking of a library of small molecules allowed us to identify a few selected compounds with high predicted affinity for the new site. Their activity against helicases from several flaviviruses was confirmed in in vitro helicase/enzymatic assays. The effect on the in vitro replication of flaviviruses was then evaluated.
Ivermectin, a broadly used anti-helminthic drug, proved to be a highly potent inhibitor of YFV replication (EC50 values in the sub-nanomolar range). Moreover, ivermectin inhibited, although less efficiently, the replication of several other flaviviruses, i.e. dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and tick-borne encephalitis viruses. Ivermectin exerts its effect at a timepoint that coincides with the onset of intracellular viral RNA synthesis, as expected for a molecule that specifically targets the viral helicase.
The well-tolerated drug ivermectin may hold great potential for treatment of YFV infections. Furthermore, structure-based optimization may result in analogues exerting potent activity against flaviviruses other than YFV.
PMCID: PMC3888155  PMID: 22535622
antiviral drug discovery; flavivirus helicase inhibition; new use of existing drug; in silico docking; structure-based drug design
25.  Simple and inexpensive three-step rapid amplification of cDNA 5′ ends using 5′ phosphorylated primers 
Analytical Biochemistry  2013;434(1):1-3.
Rapid amplification of cDNA 5′ ends (5′-RACE) is routinely used for the sequence analysis of the upstream noncoding regions of cellular mRNAs; however, it represents a tedious and cost-intensive procedure. By employing 5′ phosphorylated gene-specific primers for first-strand cDNA synthesis, we cut short the previously established reverse ligation and amplification protocol of Mandl and coworkers (BioTechniques, 1991, vol. 10, pp. 484–486) to a streamlined three-step procedure that no longer depends on enzymatic mRNA decapping or linker ligation. The novel three-step protocol has been validated by mapping the transcriptional start sites of heterologously expressed yellow fever virus genomic RNAs from cultured mammalian cells.
PMCID: PMC3562438  PMID: 23123427
Transcriptional initiation site mapping; Rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE); RNA cloning; Linker cloning; Tobacco acid pyrophosphatase

Results 1-25 (68)