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Int J Mol Sci ; 23(20)2022 Oct 19.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2082255


The SARS-CoV-2 virus can utilize host cell proteases to facilitate cell entry, whereby the Spike (S) protein is cleaved at two specific sites to enable membrane fusion. Furin, transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2), and cathepsin L (CatL) are the major proteases implicated, and are thus targets for anti-viral therapy. The human serpin (serine protease inhibitor) alpha-1 antitrypsin (A1AT) shows inhibitory activity for TMPRSS2, and has previously been found to suppress cell infection with SARS-CoV-2. Here, we have generated modified serpin inhibitors with increased specificity for these cellular proteases. Using SerpinB3 (SCCA-1), a cross-class inhibitor of CatL, as a scaffold, we have designed and produced reactive centre loop (RCL) variants to more specifically target both furin and TMPRSS2. Two further variants were generated by substituting the RCL P7-P1 with the spike protein S1/S2 cleavage site from either SARS-CoV-2 alpha or delta (P681R) sequences. Altered inhibitory specificity of purified recombinant proteins was verified in protease assays, with attenuated CatL inhibition and gain of furin or TMPRSS2 inhibition, as predicted, and modified serpins were shown to block S protein cleavage in vitro. Furthermore, the serpin variants were able to inhibit S-pseudoparticle entry into A549-ACE2-TMPRSS2 cells and suppress SARS-CoV-2 replication in Vero E6 cells expressing TMPRSS2. The construct designed to inhibit TMPRSS2 (B3-TMP) was most potent. It was more effective than A1AT for TMPRSS2 enzyme inhibition (with an eighteen-fold improvement in the second order inhibition rate constant) and for blocking SARS-CoV-2 viral replication. These findings advance the potential for serpin RCL mutagenesis to generate new inhibitors, and may lead to novel anti-viral biological molecules.

COVID-19 Drug Treatment , Serpins , Humans , SARS-CoV-2 , Furin/genetics , Furin/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Serpins/genetics , Serpins/pharmacology , Cathepsin L/metabolism , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 , Virus Internalization , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Mutagenesis , Recombinant Proteins , Serine , Serine Endopeptidases/genetics
Biochem Pharmacol ; 183: 114316, 2021 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-898506


Pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) and inflammasomes are a key part of the anti-viral innate immune system as they detect conserved viral pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). A successful host response to viral infections critically depend on the initial activation of PRRs by viruses, mainly by viral DNA and RNA. The signalling pathways activated by PRRs leads to the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, to recruit immune cells, and type I and type III interferons which leads to the induction of interferon stimulated genes (ISG), powerful virus restriction factors that establish the "antiviral state". Inflammasomes contribute to anti-viral responses through the maturation of interleukin (IL)-1 and IL-18 and through triggering pyroptotic cell death. The activity of the innate immune system along with the adaptive immune response normally leads to successful virus elimination, although disproportionate innate responses contribute to viral pathology. In this review we will discuss recent insights into the influence of PRR activation and inflammasomes on viral infections and what this means for the mammalian host. We will also comment on how specific PRRs and inflammasomes may be relevant to how SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the current COVID-19 pandemic, interacts with host innate immunity.

Immunity, Innate/immunology , Inflammasomes/immunology , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Virus Diseases/immunology , Animals , Humans , Inflammasomes/metabolism , Receptors, Pattern Recognition/immunology , Receptors, Pattern Recognition/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Virus Diseases/diagnosis , Virus Diseases/metabolism
Virus Res ; 287: 198094, 2020 10 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-680841


The past century has witnessed major advances in the control of many infectious diseases, yet outbreaks and epidemics caused by (re-) emerging RNA viruses continue to pose a global threat to human health. As illustrated by the global COVID19 pandemic, high healthcare costs, economic disruption and loss of productivity reinforce the unmet medical need to develop new antiviral strategies to combat not only the current pandemic but also future viral outbreaks. Pivotal for effective anti-viral defense is the innate immune system, a first line host response that senses and responds to virus infection. While molecular details of the innate immune response are well characterized, this research field is now being revolutionized with the recognition that cell metabolism has a major impact on the antiviral and inflammatory responses to virus infections. A detailed understanding of the role of metabolic regulation with respect to antiviral and inflammatory responses, together with knowledge of the strategies used by viruses to exploit immunometabolic pathways, will ultimately change our understanding and treatment of pathogenic viral diseases. INITIATE is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Innovative Training Network (MSCA-ITN), with the goal to train 15 early stage PhD researchers (ESRs) to become experts in antiviral immunometabolism ( To this end, INITIATE brings together a highly complementary international team of academic and corporate leaders from 7 European countries, with outstanding track records in the historically distinct research fields of virology, immunology and metabolism. The ESRs of INITIATE are trained in these interdisciplinary research fields through individual investigator-driven research projects, specialized scientific training events, workshops on academia-industry interactions, outreach & communication. INITIATE will deliver a new generation of creative and entrepreneurial researchers who will be able to face the inevitable future challenges in combating viral diseases.

Betacoronavirus/immunology , Biomedical Research/methods , Coronavirus Infections/drug therapy , Education, Medical/methods , Immunity, Innate/immunology , Pneumonia, Viral/drug therapy , Antiviral Agents/therapeutic use , Betacoronavirus/drug effects , COVID-19 , Coronavirus Infections/economics , Delivery of Health Care/economics , Delivery of Health Care/methods , Host-Pathogen Interactions/physiology , Humans , Pandemics/economics , Pneumonia, Viral/economics , SARS-CoV-2