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Pathogens ; 11(8)2022 Aug 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1969405


In this study, we show that the coronavirus (CoV) genome may encode many functional hydrophobic alpha-helical peptides (HAHPs) in overlapping reading frames of major coronaviral proteins throughout the entire viral genome. These HAHPs can theoretically be expressed from non-canonical sub-genomic (sg)RNAs that are synthesized in substantial amounts in infected cells. We selected and analyzed five and six HAHPs encoded in the S gene regions of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), respectively. Two and three HAHPs derived from SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV, respectively, specifically interacted with both the SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV S proteins and inhibited their membrane fusion activity. Furthermore, one of the SARS-CoV-2 HAHPs specifically inhibited viral RNA synthesis by accumulating at the site of viral RNA synthesis. Our data show that a group of HAHPs in the coronaviral genome potentially has a regulatory role in viral propagation.

Commun Biol ; 5(1): 483, 2022 05 19.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1852521


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) ORF6 is an antagonist of interferon (IFN)-mediated antiviral signaling, achieved through the prevention of STAT1 nuclear localization. However, the exact mechanism through which ORF6 prevents STAT1 nuclear trafficking remains unclear. Herein, we demonstrate that ORF6 directly binds to STAT1 with or without IFN stimulation, resulting in the nuclear exclusion of STAT1. ORF6 also recognizes importin α subtypes with different modes, in particular, high affinity to importin α1 but a low affinity to importin α5. Although ORF6 potentially disrupts the importin α/importin ß1-mediated nuclear transport, thereby suppressing the nuclear translocation of the other classical nuclear localization signal-containing cargo proteins, the inhibitory effect of ORF6 is modest when compared with that of STAT1. The results indicate that the drastic nuclear exclusion of STAT1 is attributed to the specific binding with ORF6, which is a distinct strategy for the importin α1-mediated pathway. Combined with the results from a newly-produced replicon system and a hamster model, we conclude that SARS-CoV-2 ORF6 acts as a virulence factor via regulation of nucleocytoplasmic trafficking to accelerate viral replication, resulting in disease progression.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Viral Proteins/metabolism , Animals , Antiviral Agents , Biological Transport , Cricetinae , Viral Proteins/genetics , Virus Replication , alpha Karyopherins/genetics , alpha Karyopherins/metabolism
Antiviral Res ; 199: 105268, 2022 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1850634


Experiments with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are limited by the need for biosafety level 3 (BSL3) conditions. A SARS-CoV-2 replicon system rather than an in vitro infection system is suitable for antiviral screening since it can be handled under BSL2 conditions and does not produce infectious particles. However, the reported replicon systems are cumbersome because of the need for transient transfection in each assay. In this study, we constructed a bacterial artificial chromosome vector (the replicon-BAC vector) including the SARS-CoV-2 replicon and a fusion gene encoding Renilla luciferase and neomycin phosphotransferase II, examined the antiviral effects of several known compounds, and then established a cell line stably harboring the replicon-BAC vector. Several cell lines transiently transfected with the replicon-BAC vector produced subgenomic replicon RNAs (sgRNAs) and viral proteins, and exhibited luciferase activity. In the transient replicon system, treatment with remdesivir or interferon-ß but not with camostat or favipiravir suppressed the production of viral agents and luciferase, indicating that luciferase activity corresponds to viral replication. VeroE6/Rep3, a stable replicon cell line based on VeroE6 cells, was successfully established and continuously produced viral proteins, sgRNAs and luciferase, and their production was suppressed by treatment with remdesivir or interferon-ß. Molnupiravir, a novel coronavirus RdRp inhibitor, inhibited viral replication more potently in VeroE6/Rep3 cells than in VeroE6-based transient replicon cells. In summary, our stable replicon system will be a powerful tool for the identification of SARS-CoV-2 antivirals through high-throughput screening.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , High-Throughput Screening Assays , Humans , Replicon , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Virus Replication