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researchsquare; 2021.


The endo-lysosomal pathway plays an important role in pathogen clearance and both bacteria and viruses have evolved complex mechanisms to evade this host system. Here, we describe a novel aspect of coronaviral infection, whereby the master transcriptional regulator of lysosome biogenesis – TFEB – is targeted for proteasomal-mediated degradation upon viral infection. Through mass spectrometry analysis and an unbiased siRNA screen, we identify that TFEB protein stability is coordinately regulated by the E3 ubiquitin ligase subunit DCAF7 and the PAK2 kinase. In particular, viral infection triggers marked PAK2 activation, which in turn, phosphorylates and primes TFEB for ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation. Deletion of either DCAF7 or PAK2 blocks viral-mediated TFEB degradation and protects against viral-induced cytopathic effects. We further derive a series of small molecules that interfere with the DCAF7-TFEB interaction. These agents inhibit viral-triggered TFEB degradation and demonstrate broad anti-viral activities including attenuating in vivo SARS-CoV-2 infection. Together, these results delineate a viral-triggered pathway that disables the endogenous cellular system that maintains lysosomal function and suggest that small molecule inhibitors of the E3 ubiquitin ligase DCAF7 represent a novel class of endo-lysosomal, host-directed, anti-viral therapies.

researchsquare; 2020.


SARS-CoV-2 (2019-nCoV) is the pathogenic coronavirus responsible for the global pandemic of COVID-19 disease. The Spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2 attaches to host lung epithelial cells through the cell surface receptor ACE2, a process dependent on host proteases including TMPRSS2. Here, we identified small molecules that can reduce surface expression of TMPRSS2 using a 2,700 FDA-approved or current clinical trial compounds. Among these, homoharringtonine and halofuginone appear the most potent agents, reducing endogenous TMPRSS2 expression at sub-micromolar concentrations. These effects appear to be mediated by a drug-induced alteration in TMPRSS2 protein stability. We further demonstrate that halofuginone modulates TMPRSS2 levels through proteasomal-mediated degradation that involves the E3 ubiquitin ligase component DDB1- and CUL4-associated factor 1 (DCAF1). Finally, cells exposed to homoharringtonine and halofuginone, at concentrations of drug known to be achievable in human plasma, demonstrated marked resistance to SARS-CoV-2 pseudoviral infection. Given the safety and pharmacokinetic data already available for the compounds identified in our screen, these results should help expedite the rational design of human clinical trials designed to combat COVID-19 infection.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.07.13.190140


For yet unknown reasons, severely ill COVID-19 patients often become critically ill around the time of activation of adaptive immunity. Here, we show that anti-Spike IgG from serum of severely ill COVID-19 patients induces a hyper-inflammatory response by human macrophages, which subsequently breaks pulmonary endothelial barrier integrity and induces microvascular thrombosis. The excessive inflammatory capacity of this anti-Spike IgG is related to glycosylation changes in the IgG Fc tail. Moreover, the hyper-inflammatory response induced by anti-Spike IgG can be specifically counteracted in vitro by use of the active component of fostamatinib, an FDA- and EMA-approved therapeutic small molecule inhibitor of Syk. One sentence summaryAnti-Spike IgG promotes hyper-inflammation.