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biorxiv; 2023.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2023.04.03.535453


One of the hallmarks of RNA viruses is highly structured untranslated regions (UTRs) in their genomes. These conserved RNA structures are often essential for viral replication, transcription, or translation. In this report, we discovered and optimized a new coumarin derivative C30 that binds to a four-way RNA helix called SL5 in the 5' UTR of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA genome. To locate the binding site, we developed a novel sequencing-based method namely cgSHAPE-seq, in which the acylating chemical probe was directed to crosslink with the 2'-OH groups of ribose at the ligand binding site. This crosslinked RNA could then create read-through mutations during reverse transcription (i.e., primer extension) at single-nucleotide resolution to uncover the acylation locations. cgSHAPE-seq unambiguously determined that a bulged G in SL5 was the primary binding site of C30 in the SARS-CoV-2 5' UTR, which was validated through mutagenesis and in vitro binding experiments. C30 was further used as a warhead in RNA-degrading chimeras (RIBOTACs) to reduce viral RNA expression levels. We demonstrated that replacing the acylating moiety in the cgSHAPE probe with ribonuclease L recruiter (RLR) moieties yielded RNA degraders active in the in vitro RNase L degradation assay and SARS-CoV-2 5' UTR expressing cells. We further explored another RLR conjugation site on the E ring of C30 and discovered potent activity in vitro and in cells. The optimized RIBOTAC C64 inhibited live virus replication in lung epithelial carcinoma cells.

researchsquare; 2023.


Background The burst of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is causing the global COVID-19 pandemic. But until today only limited numbers of drugs are discovered to treat COVID-19 patients. Even worse, the rapid mutations of SARS-CoV-2 compromise the effectiveness of existing vaccines and neutralizing antibodies due to the increased viral transmissibility and immune escape. CD147-spike protein, one of the entries of SRAR-CoV-2 into host cells, has been reported as a promising therapeutic target for developing drugs against COVID-19.Methods CRISPR-Cas9 induced gene knockout, western blotting, tet-off protein overexpression, ribonucleoprotein IP and RNA-IP were used to confirm the regulation of HuR on mRNA of CD147. Regulation of niclosamide on HuR nucleo-translocation was assessed by immunofluorescence staining of cell lines, IHC staining of tissue of mouse model and western blotting. Finally, the suppression of niclosamide on SARS-CoV-2 infection induced CD147 was evaluated by ACE2-expressing A549 cells and western blotting.Results We first discovered a novel regulation mechanism of CD147 via the RNA-binding protein HuR. We found that HuR regulates CD147 post-transcription by directly bound to its 3'-UTR. The loss of HuR reduced CD147 in multiple cell lines. Niclosamide inhibited CD147 function by blocking HuR cytoplasmic translocation and diminishing CD147 glycosylation. SARS-CoV-2 infection induced CD147 in ACE2-expressing A549 cells, which could be neutralized by niclosamide in a dose-dependent manner.Conclusion Together, our study reveals a novel regulation mechanism of CD147 and niclosamide can be repurposed as an effective COVID-19 drug by targeting the virus entry, CD147-spike protein.

biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.02.03.429670


The novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) caused the devastating ongoing coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic which poses a great threat to global public health. The spike (S) polypeptide of SARS-CoV-2 consists of the S1 and S2 subunits and is processed by cellular proteases at the S1/S2 boundary. The inclusion of the 4 amino acids (PRRA) at the S1/S2 boundary forms a furin cleavage site (FCS), 682RRAR{downarrow}S686, distinguishing SARS-CoV-2 from its closest relative, the SARS-CoV. Various deletions surrounding the FCS have been identified in patients. When SARS-CoV-2 propagated in Vero cells, the virus acquired various deletions surrounding the FCS. In the present study, we studied the viral transcriptome in SARS-CoV-2 infected primary human airway epithelia (HAE) cultured at an air-liquid interface (ALI) with an emphasis on the viral genome stability at the S1/S2 boundary using RNA-seq. While we found overall the viral transcriptome is similar to that generated from infected Vero cells, we identified a high percentage of mutated viral genome and transcripts in HAE-ALI. Two highly frequent deletions were found at the S1/S2 boundary of the S gene: one is a deletion of 12 amino acids, 678TNSPRRAR{downarrow}SVAS689, which contains the FCS, another is a deletion of 5 amino acids, 675QTQTN679, which is two amino acids upstream of the FCS. Further studies on the dynamics of the FCS deletions in apically released virions revealed that the selective pressure for the FCS maintains the S gene stability in HAE-ALI but with exceptions, in which the FCS deletions are remained at a high rate. Thus, our study presents evidence for the role of unique properties of human airway epithelia in the dynamics of the FCS region during infection of human airways, which is donor-dependent.

biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.08.27.271130


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) replicates throughout human airways. The polarized human airway epithelium (HAE) cultured at an airway-liquid interface (HAE-ALI) is an in vitro model mimicking the in vivo human mucociliary airway epithelium and supports the replication of SARS-CoV-2. However, previous studies only characterized short-period SARS-CoV-2 infection in HAE. In this study, continuously monitoring the SARS-CoV-2 infection in HAE-ALI cultures for a long period of up to 51 days revealed that SARS-CoV-2 infection was long lasting with recurrent replication peaks appearing between an interval of approximately 7-10 days, which was consistent in all the tested HAE-ALI cultures derived from 4 lung bronchi of independent donors. We also identified that SARS-CoV-2 does not infect HAE from the basolateral side, and the dominant SARS-CoV-2 permissive epithelial cells are ciliated cells and goblet cells, whereas virus replication in basal cells and club cells was not detectable. Notably, virus infection immediately damaged the HAE, which is demonstrated by dispersed Zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) expression without clear tight junctions and partial loss of cilia. Importantly, we identified that SARS-CoV-2 productive infection of HAE requires a high viral load of 2.5 x 105 virions per cm2 of epithelium. Thus, our studies highlight the importance of a high viral load and that epithelial renewal initiates and maintains a recurrent infection of HAE with SARS-CoV-2.