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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  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
15.  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
16.  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
17.  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
18.  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
19.  The HCV Non-Nucleoside Inhibitor Tegobuvir Utilizes a Novel Mechanism of Action to Inhibit NS5B Polymerase Function 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39163.
Tegobuvir (TGV) is a novel non-nucleoside inhibitor (NNI) of HCV RNA replication with demonstrated antiviral activity in patients with genotype 1 chronic HCV infection. The mechanism of action of TGV has not been clearly defined despite the identification of resistance mutations mapping to the NS5B polymerase region. TGV does not inhibit NS5B enzymatic activity in biochemical assays in vitro, suggesting a more complex antiviral mechanism with cellular components. Here, we demonstrate that TGV exerts anti-HCV activity utilizing a unique chemical activation and subsequent direct interaction with the NS5B protein. Treatment of HCV subgenomic replicon cells with TGV results in a modified form of NS5B with a distinctly altered mobility on a SDS-PAGE gel. Further analysis reveals that the aberrantly migrating NS5B species contains the inhibitor molecule. Formation of this complex does not require the presence of any other HCV proteins. The intensity of the aberrantly migrating NS5B species is strongly dependent on cellular glutathione levels as well as CYP 1A activity. Furthermore analysis of NS5B protein purified from a heterologous expression system treated with TGV by mass spectrometry suggests that TGV undergoes a CYP- mediated intracellular activation step and the resulting metabolite, after forming a glutathione conjugate, directly and specifically interacts with NS5B. Taken together, these data demonstrate that upon metabolic activation TGV is a specific, covalent inhibitor of the HCV NS5B polymerase and is mechanistically distinct from other classes of the non-nucleoside inhibitors (NNI) of the viral polymerase.
PMCID: PMC3374789  PMID: 22720059
20.  An Analogue of the Antibiotic Teicoplanin Prevents Flavivirus Entry In Vitro 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37244.
There is an urgent need for potent inhibitors of dengue virus (DENV) replication for the treatment and/or prophylaxis of infections with this virus. We here report on an aglycon analogue of the antibiotic teicoplanin (code name LCTA-949) that inhibits DENV-induced cytopathic effect (CPE) in a dose-dependent manner. Virus infection was completely inhibited at concentrations that had no adverse effect on the host cells. These findings were corroborated by quantification of viral RNA levels in culture supernatant. Antiviral activity was also observed against other flaviviruses such as the yellow fever virus and the tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV). In particular, potent antiviral activity was observed against TBEV. Time-of-drug-addition experiments indicated that LCTA-949 inhibits an early stage in the DENV replication cycle; however, a virucidal effect was excluded. This observation was corroborated by the fact that LCTA-949 lacks activity on DENV subgenomic replicon (that does not encode structural proteins) replication. Using a microsopy-based binding and fusion assay employing DiD-labeled viruses, it was shown that LCTA-949 targets the early stage (binding/entry) of the infection. Moreover, LCTA-949 efficiently inhibits infectivity of DENV particles pre-opsonized with antibodies, thus potentially also inhibiting antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). In conclusion, LCTA-949 exerts in vitro activity against several flaviviruses and does so (as shown for DENV) by interfering with an early step in the viral replication cycle.
PMCID: PMC3356272  PMID: 22624001
21.  Hepatitis C virus infection of neuroepithelioma cell lines 
Gastroenterology  2010;139(4):1365-1374.
Background & Aims
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) establishes chronic infections in 3% of the world's population. Infection leads to progressive liver disease; hepatocytes are the major site of viral replication in vivo. However, chronic infection is associated with a variety of extrahepatic syndromes, including central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities. We therefore screened a series of neural and brain-derived cell lines for their ability to support HCV entry and replication.
We used a panel of neural-derived cell lines, HCV pseudoparticles (HCVpp), and an infectious, HCV JFH-1 cell-culture system (HCVcc) to assess viral tropism.
Two independently derived neuroepithelioma cell lines (SK-N-MC and SK-PN-DW) permitted HCVpp entry. In contrast, several neuroblastoma, glioma, and astrocytoma cell lines were refractory to HCVpp infection. HCVcc infected the neuroepithelioma cell lines and established a productive infection. Permissive neuroepithelioma cells expressed CD81, scavenger receptor BI (SR-BI), and the tight junction proteins Claudin-1 (CLDN1) and occludin, whereas non-permissive neural cell lines lacked CLDN1 and in some cases SR-BI. HCVpp infection of the neuroepithelioma cells was neutralized by antibodies to CD81, SR-BI, CLDN1 and HCV E2. Furthermore, anti-CD81, interferon and the anti-NS3 protease inhibitor VX-950 significantly reduced HCVcc infection of neuroepithelioma and hepatoma cells.
Neuroepithelioma-derived cell lines express functional receptors that support HCV entry at comparable levels to that of hepatoma cells. HCV infection in vitro is not restricted to hepatic-derived cells, so HCV might infect cells of the CNS in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3298458  PMID: 20538002
OCLN; neurotropism; brain; therapy; replicon; Huh-7; VX-950
22.  Mechanistic Characterization of GS-9190 (Tegobuvir), a Novel Nonnucleoside Inhibitor of Hepatitis C Virus NS5B Polymerase▿ 
GS-9190 (Tegobuvir) is a novel imidazopyridine inhibitor of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA replication in vitro and has demonstrated potent antiviral activity in patients chronically infected with genotype 1 (GT1) HCV. GS-9190 exhibits reduced activity against GT2a (JFH1) subgenomic replicons and GT2a (J6/JFH1) infectious virus, suggesting that the compound's mechanism of action involves a genotype-specific viral component. To further investigate the GS-9190 mechanism of action, we utilized the susceptibility differences between GT1b and GT2a by constructing a series of replicon chimeras where combinations of 1b and 2a nonstructural proteins were encoded within the same replicon. The antiviral activities of GS-9190 against the chimeric replicons were reduced to levels comparable to that of the wild-type GT2a replicon in chimeras expressing GT2a NS5B. GT1b replicons in which the β-hairpin region (amino acids 435 to 455) was replaced by the corresponding sequence of GT2a were markedly less susceptible to GS-9190, indicating the importance of the thumb subdomain of the polymerase in this effect. Resistance selection in GT1b replicon cells identified several mutations in NS5B (C316Y, Y448H, Y452H, and C445F) that contributed to the drug resistance phenotype. Reintroduction of these mutations into wild-type replicons conferred resistance to GS-9190, with the number of NS5B mutations correlating with the degree of resistance. Analysis of GS-9190 cross-resistance against previously reported NS5B drug-selected mutations showed that the resistance pattern of GS-9190 is different from other nonnucleoside inhibitors. Collectively, these data demonstrate that GS-9190 represents a novel class of nonnucleoside polymerase inhibitors that interact with NS5B likely through involvement of the β-hairpin in the thumb subdomain.
PMCID: PMC3165336  PMID: 21746939
23.  Comparative Study of the Genetic Barriers and Pathways towards Resistance of Selective Inhibitors of Hepatitis C Virus Replication▿† 
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) inhibitors include direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) such as NS3 serine protease inhibitors, nucleoside and nonnucleoside polymerase inhibitors, and host-targeting antivirals (HTAs) such as cyclophilin inhibitors that have been developed in recent years. Drug-resistant HCV variants have been reported both in vitro and in the clinical setting for most classes of drugs. We report a comparative study in which the genetic barrier to drug resistance of a representative selection of these inhibitors is evaluated employing a number of resistance selection protocols. The NS3 protease inhibitors VX-950 and BILN 2061, the nucleoside polymerase inhibitor 2′-C-methylcytidine, three nonnucleoside polymerase inhibitors (thiophene carboxylic acid, benzimidazole, and benzothiadiazine), and DEB025 were included. For each drug and passage in the selection process, the phenotype and genotype of the drug-resistant replicon were determined. For a number of molecules (BILN 2061 and nonnucleoside inhibitors), drug-resistant variants were readily selected when wild-type replicon-containing cells were directly cultured in the presence of high concentrations of the inhibitor. Resistance to DEB025 could be selected only following a lengthy stepwise selection procedure. For some DAAs, the signature mutations that emerged under inhibitor pressure differed depending on the selection protocol that was employed. Replication fitness of resistant mutants revealed that the C445F mutation in the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase can restore loss of fitness caused by a number of unfit resistance mutations. These data provide important insights into the various pathways leading to drug resistance and allow a direct comparison of the genetic barriers of various HCV drugs.
PMCID: PMC3165355  PMID: 21709100
24.  Antiviral Activity of Bay 41-4109 on Hepatitis B Virus in Humanized Alb-uPA/SCID Mice 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e25096.
Current treatments for HBV chronic carriers using interferon alpha or nucleoside analogues are not effective in all patients and may induce the emergence of HBV resistant strains. Bay 41-4109, a member of the heteroaryldihydropyrimidine family, inhibits HBV replication by destabilizing capsid assembly. The aim of this study was to determine the antiviral effect of Bay 41-4109 in a mouse model with humanized liver and the spread of active HBV. Antiviral assays of Bay 41-4109 on HepG2.2.15 cells constitutively expressing HBV, displayed an IC50 of about 202 nM with no cell toxicity. Alb-uPA/SCID mice were transplanted with human hepatocytes and infected with HBV. Ten days post-infection, the mice were treated with Bay 41-4109 for five days. During the 30 days of follow-up, the HBV load was evaluated by quantitative PCR. At the end of treatment, decreased HBV viremia of about 1 log(10) copies/ml was observed. By contrast, increased HBV viremia of about 0.5 log(10) copies/ml was measured in the control group. Five days after the end of treatment, a rebound of HBV viremia occurred in the treated group. Furthermore, 15 days after treatment discontinuation, a similar expression of the viral capsid was evidenced in liver biopsies. Our findings demonstrate that Bay 41-4109 displayed antiviral properties against HBV in humanized Alb-uPA/SCID mice and confirm the usefulness of Alb-uPA/SCID mice for the evaluation of pharmaceutical compounds. The administration of Bay 41-4109 may constitute a new strategy for the treatment of patients in escape from standard antiviral therapy.
PMCID: PMC3230577  PMID: 22162746
25.  Preclinical Characterization of Naturally Occurring Polyketide Cyclophilin Inhibitors from the Sanglifehrin Family▿† 
Cyclophilin inhibitors currently in clinical trials for hepatitis C virus (HCV) are all analogues of cyclosporine (CsA). Sanglifehrins are a group of naturally occurring cyclophilin binding polyketides that are structurally distinct from the cyclosporines and are produced by a microorganism amenable to biosynthetic engineering for lead optimization and large-scale production by fermentation. Preclinical characterization of the potential utility of this class of compounds for the treatment of HCV revealed that the natural sanglifehrins A to D are all more potent than CsA at disrupting formation of the NS5A-CypA, -CypB, and -CypD complexes and at inhibition of CypA, CypB, and CypD isomerase activity. In particular, sanglifehrin B (SfB) was 30- to 50-fold more potent at inhibiting the isomerase activity of all Cyps tested than CsA and was also shown to be a more potent inhibitor of the 1b subgenomic replicon (50% effective concentrations [EC50s] of 0.070 μM and 0.16 μM in Huh 5-2 and Huh 9-13 cells, respectively). Physicochemical and mouse pharmacokinetic analyses revealed low oral bioavailability (F < 4%) and low solubility (<25 μM), although the half-lives (t1/2) of SfA and SfB in mouse blood after intravenous (i.v.) dosing were long (t1/2 > 5 h). These data demonstrate that naturally occurring sanglifehrins are suitable lead compounds for the development of novel analogues that are less immunosuppressive and that have improved metabolism and pharmacokinetic properties.
PMCID: PMC3088210  PMID: 21383094

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