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1.
Pharmaceutics ; 15(1):115, 2023.
Article in English | MDPI | ID: covidwho-2166790

ABSTRACT

Starting in 2019, the spread of respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the associated pandemic of the corona virus disease (COVID-19) has led to enormous efforts in the development of medical countermeasures. Although innovative vaccines have scaled back the number of severe COVID cases, the emergence of the omicron variant (B.1.1.529) illustrates how vaccine development struggles to keep pace with viral evolution. On the other hand, while the recently approved antiviral drugs remdesivir, molnupiravir, and Paxlovid are considered as broadly acting anti-coronavirus therapeutics, only molnupiravir and Paxlovid are orally available and none of these drugs are recommended for prophylactic use. Thus, so far unexploited small molecules, targeting strategies, and antiviral mechanisms are urgently needed to address issues in the current pandemic and in putative future outbreaks of newly emerging variants of concern. Recently, we and others have described the anti-infective potential and particularly the pronounced antiviral activity of artesunate and related compounds of the trioxane/sesquiterpene class. In particular, the trimeric derivative TF27 demonstrated strong anti-cytomegalovirus activity at nanomolar concentrations in vitro as well as in vivo efficacy after oral administration in therapeutic and even prophylactic treatment settings. Here, we extended this analysis by evaluating TF27 for its anti-SARS-CoV-2 potential. Our main findings are as follows: (i) compound TF27 exerted strong anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity in vitro (EC50 = 0.46 ±0.20 µM), (ii) antiviral activity was clearly distinct from the induction of cytotoxicity, (iii) pretreatment with TF27 prevented virus replication in cultured cells, (iv) antiviral activity has likewise been demonstrated in Calu-3 human lung and Caco-2 human colon cells infected with wild-type, delta, or omicron SARS-CoV-2, respectively, and (v) analysis of TF27 combination treatments has revealed synergistic interaction with GC376, but antagonistic interaction with EIDD-1931. Combined, the data demonstrated the pronounced anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity of TF27 and thus highlight the potential of trioxane compounds for further pharmacologic development towards improved options for COVID-specific medication.

2.
EMBO Rep ; : e55648, 2022 Oct 26.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2091042

ABSTRACT

Methylation of the mRNA 5' cap by cellular methyltransferases enables efficient translation and avoids recognition by innate immune factors. Coronaviruses encode viral 2'-O-methyltransferases to shield their RNA from host factors. Here, we generate recombinant SARS-CoV-2 harboring a catalytically inactive 2'-O-methyltransferase Nsp16, Nsp16mut, and analyze viral replication in human lung epithelial cells. Although replication is only slightly attenuated, we find SARS-CoV-2 Nsp16mut to be highly immunogenic, resulting in a strongly enhanced release of type I interferon upon infection. The elevated immunogenicity of Nsp16mut is absent in cells lacking the RNA sensor MDA5. In addition, we report that Nsp16mut is highly sensitive to type I IFN treatment and demonstrate that this strong antiviral effect of type I IFN is mediated by the restriction factor IFIT1. Together, we describe a dual role for the 2'-O-methyltransferase Nsp16 during SARS-CoV-2 replication in avoiding efficient recognition by MDA5 and in shielding its RNA from interferon-induced antiviral responses, thereby identifying Nsp16 as a promising target for generating attenuated and highly immunogenic SARS-CoV-2 strains and as a potential candidate for therapeutic intervention.

3.
EMBO J ; 41(17): e111608, 2022 09 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1934722

ABSTRACT

The SARS-CoV-2 infection cycle is a multistage process that relies on functional interactions between the host and the pathogen. Here, we repurposed antiviral drugs against both viral and host enzymes to pharmaceutically block methylation of the viral RNA 2'-O-ribose cap needed for viral immune escape. We find that the host cap 2'-O-ribose methyltransferase MTr1 can compensate for loss of viral NSP16 methyltransferase in facilitating virus replication. Concomitant inhibition of MTr1 and NSP16 efficiently suppresses SARS-CoV-2 replication. Using in silico target-based drug screening, we identify a bispecific MTr1/NSP16 inhibitor with anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity in vitro and in vivo but with unfavorable side effects. We further show antiviral activity of inhibitors that target independent stages of the host SAM cycle providing the methyltransferase co-substrate. In particular, the adenosylhomocysteinase (AHCY) inhibitor DZNep is antiviral in in vitro, in ex vivo, and in a mouse infection model and synergizes with existing COVID-19 treatments. Moreover, DZNep exhibits a strong immunomodulatory effect curbing infection-induced hyperinflammation and reduces lung fibrosis markers ex vivo. Thus, multispecific and metabolic MTase inhibitors constitute yet unexplored treatment options against COVID-19.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Animals , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , COVID-19/drug therapy , Inflammation/drug therapy , Methyltransferases/metabolism , Mice , RNA Caps/metabolism , RNA, Viral/genetics , Ribose , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/genetics
4.
Cells ; 11(8)2022 04 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1785538

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 has lasted for more than two years. Despite the presence of very effective vaccines, the number of virus variants that escape neutralizing antibodies is growing. Thus, there is still a need for effective antiviral treatments that target virus replication independently of the circulating variant. Here, we show for the first time that deficiency or pharmacological inhibition of the cellular lysine-methyltransferase SMYD2 decreases TMPRSS2 expression on both mRNA and protein levels. SARS-CoV-2 uses TMPRSS2 for priming its spike protein to infect target cells. Treatment of cultured cells with the SMYD2 inhibitors AZ505 or BAY598 significantly inhibited viral replication. In contrast, treatment of Vero E6 cells, which do not express detectable amounts of TMPRSS2, had no effect on SARS-CoV-2 infection. Moreover, by generating a recombinant reporter virus that expresses the spike protein of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, we demonstrate that BAY598 exhibits similar antiviral activity against this variant of concern. In summary, SMYD2 inhibition downregulates TMPRSS2 and blocks viral replication. Targeting cellular SMYD2 represents a promising tool to curtail SARS-CoV-2 infection.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Epithelial Cells , Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase , Serine Endopeptidases , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , COVID-19/pathology , Epithelial Cells/metabolism , Epithelial Cells/virology , Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase/genetics , Humans , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , Serine Endopeptidases/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Virus Internalization
5.
mBio ; 13(2): e0040222, 2022 04 26.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1765083

ABSTRACT

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection triggers cytokine-mediated inflammation, leading to a myriad of clinical presentations in COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 open reading frame 8 (ORF8) is a secreted and rapidly evolving glycoprotein. Patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 variants with ORF8 deleted are associated with mild disease outcomes, but the molecular mechanism behind this is unknown. Here, we report that SARS-CoV-2 ORF8 is a viral cytokine that is similar to but distinct from interleukin 17A (IL-17A) as it induces stronger and broader human IL-17 receptor (hIL-17R) signaling than IL-17A. ORF8 primarily targeted blood monocytes and induced the heterodimerization of hIL-17RA and hIL-17RC, triggering a robust inflammatory response. Transcriptome analysis revealed that besides its activation of the hIL-17R pathway, ORF8 upregulated gene expression for fibrosis signaling and coagulation dysregulation. A naturally occurring ORF8 L84S variant that was highly associated with mild COVID-19 showed reduced hIL-17RA binding and attenuated inflammatory responses. This study reveals how SARS-CoV-2 ORF8 by a viral mimicry of the IL-17 cytokine contributes to COVID-19 severe inflammation. IMPORTANCE Patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 variants lacking open reading frame 8 (ORF8) have been associated with milder infection and disease outcome, but the molecular mechanism behind how this viral accessory protein mediates disease pathogenesis is not yet known. In our study, we revealed that secreted ORF8 protein mimics host IL-17 to activate IL-17 receptors A and C (IL-17RA/C) and induces a significantly stronger inflammatory response than host IL-17A, providing molecular insights into the role of ORF8 in COVID-19 pathogenesis and serving as a potential therapeutic target.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Humans , Inflammation/genetics , Interleukin-17/genetics , Open Reading Frames , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Viral Proteins/metabolism
6.
Nat Commun ; 12(1): 6855, 2021 11 25.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1537312

ABSTRACT

The bat sarbecovirus RaTG13 is a close relative of SARS-CoV-2, the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this bat virus was most likely unable to directly infect humans since its Spike (S) protein does not interact efficiently with the human ACE2 receptor. Here, we show that a single T403R mutation increases binding of RaTG13 S to human ACE2 and allows VSV pseudoparticle infection of human lung cells and intestinal organoids. Conversely, mutation of R403T in the SARS-CoV-2 S reduces pseudoparticle infection and viral replication. The T403R RaTG13 S is neutralized by sera from individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 indicating that vaccination might protect against future zoonoses. Our data suggest that a positively charged amino acid at position 403 in the S protein is critical for efficient utilization of human ACE2 by S proteins of bat coronaviruses. This finding could help to better predict the zoonotic potential of animal coronaviruses.


Subject(s)
Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/chemistry , Protein Binding , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/chemistry , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Animals , COVID-19/virology , COVID-19 Vaccines , Caco-2 Cells , Cloning, Molecular , HEK293 Cells , Humans , Molecular Dynamics Simulation , Mutation , Replicon , Species Specificity , Stem Cells , Zoonoses
7.
Int J Mol Sci ; 22(19)2021 Sep 22.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1438627

ABSTRACT

The ongoing pandemic coronavirus (CoV) disease 2019 (COVID-19) by severe acute respiratory syndrome CoV-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has already caused substantial morbidity, mortality, and economic devastation. Reverse genetic approaches to generate recombinant viruses are a powerful tool to characterize and understand newly emerging viruses. To contribute to the global efforts for countermeasures to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2, we developed a passage-free SARS-CoV-2 clone based on a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC). Moreover, using a Lambda-based Red recombination, we successfully generated different reporter and marker viruses, which replicated similar to a clinical isolate in a cell culture. Moreover, we designed a full-length reporter virus encoding an additional artificial open reading frame with wild-type-like replication features. The virus-encoded reporters were successfully applied to ease antiviral testing in cell culture models. Furthermore, we designed a new marker virus encoding 3xFLAG-tagged nucleocapsid that allows the detection of incoming viral particles and, in combination with bio-orthogonal labeling for the visualization of viral RNA synthesis via click chemistry, the spatiotemporal tracking of viral replication on the single-cell level. In summary, by applying BAC-based Red recombination, we developed a powerful, reliable, and convenient platform that will facilitate studies answering numerous questions concerning the biology of SARS-CoV-2.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/virology , Cloning, Molecular/methods , Genome, Viral , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Animals , Chlorocebus aethiops , HEK293 Cells , Humans , Mutagenesis , Plasmids/genetics , Recombination, Genetic , Vero Cells
8.
Pathogens ; 10(9)2021 Aug 25.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1374480

ABSTRACT

Currently, human infections with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are accelerating the ongoing spread of the pandemic. Several innovative types of vaccines have already been developed, whereas effective options of antiviral treatments still await a scientific implementation. The development of novel anti-SARS-CoV-2 drug candidates demands skillful strategies and analysis systems. Promising results have been achieved with first generation direct-acting antivirals targeting the viral polymerase RdRp or the protease 3CLpro. Such recently approved or investigational drugs like remdesivir and GC376 represent a basis for further development and optimization. Here, we establish a multi-readout assay (MRA) system that enables the antiviral assessment and mechanistic characterization of novel test compounds, drug repurposing and combination treatments. Our SARS-CoV-2-specific MRA combines the quantitative measurement of several parameters of virus infection, such as the intracellular production of proteins and genomes, enzymatic activities and virion release, as well as the use of reporter systems. In this regard, the antiviral efficacy of remdesivir and GC376 has been investigated in human Caco-2 cells. The readouts included the use of spike- and double-strand RNA-specific monoclonal antibodies for in-cell fluorescence imaging, a newly generated recombinant SARS-CoV-2 reporter virus d6YFP, the novel 3CLpro-based FRET CFP::YFP and the previously reported FlipGFP reporter assays, as well as viral genome-specific RT-qPCR. The data produced by our MRA confirm the high antiviral potency of these two drugs in vitro. Combined, this MRA approach may be applied for broader analyses of SARS-CoV-2-specific antivirals, including compound screenings and the characterization of selected drug candidates.

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