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Int J Mol Sci ; 22(6)2021 Mar 19.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1143519


The development of effective antiviral drugs targeting the severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is urgently needed to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We have previously studied the use of semi-synthetic derivatives of oxysterols, oxidized derivatives of cholesterol as drug candidates for the inhibition of cancer, fibrosis, and bone regeneration. In this study, we screened a panel of naturally occurring and semi-synthetic oxysterols for anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity using a cell culture infection assay. We show that the natural oxysterols, 7-ketocholesterol, 22(R)-hydroxycholesterol, 24(S)-hydroxycholesterol, and 27-hydroxycholesterol, substantially inhibited SARS-CoV-2 propagation in cultured cells. Among semi-synthetic oxysterols, Oxy210 and Oxy232 displayed more robust anti-SARS-CoV-2 activities, reducing viral replication more than 90% at 10 µM and 99% at 15 µM, respectively. When orally administered in mice, peak plasma concentrations of Oxy210 fell into a therapeutically relevant range (19 µM), based on the dose-dependent curve for antiviral activity in our cell-based assay. Mechanistic studies suggest that Oxy210 reduced replication of SARS-CoV-2 by disrupting the formation of double-membrane vesicles (DMVs); intracellular membrane compartments associated with viral replication. Our study warrants further evaluation of Oxy210 and Oxy232 as a safe and reliable oral medication, which could help protect vulnerable populations with increased risk of developing COVID-19.

Antiviral Agents/chemistry , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Oxysterols/chemistry , Oxysterols/pharmacology , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , Administration, Oral , Animals , Antiviral Agents/administration & dosage , Antiviral Agents/pharmacokinetics , COVID-19/drug therapy , Cell Survival/drug effects , Chlorocebus aethiops , Mice , Nucleocapsid Proteins/drug effects , Oxysterols/administration & dosage , Oxysterols/pharmacokinetics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Vero Cells , Viral Replication Compartments/drug effects , Virus Replication/drug effects
Angew Chem Int Ed Engl ; 60(1): 432-438, 2021 01 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-774564


The COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 has become a global threat. Understanding the underlying mechanisms and developing innovative treatments are extremely urgent. G-quadruplexes (G4s) are important noncanonical nucleic acid structures with distinct biofunctions. Four putative G4-forming sequences (PQSs) in the SARS-CoV-2 genome were studied. One of them (RG-1), which locates in the coding sequence region of SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid phosphoprotein (N), has been verified to form a stable RNA G4 structure in live cells. G4-specific compounds, such as PDP (pyridostatin derivative), can stabilize RG-1 G4 and significantly reduce the protein levels of SARS-CoV-2 N by inhibiting its translation both in vitro and in vivo. This result is the first evidence that PQSs in SARS-CoV-2 can form G4 structures in live cells, and that their biofunctions can be regulated by a G4-specific stabilizer. This finding will provide new insights into developing novel antiviral drugs against COVID-19.

Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , COVID-19/drug therapy , G-Quadruplexes/drug effects , RNA, Viral/drug effects , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , Drug Evaluation, Preclinical , Gene Expression Regulation, Viral/drug effects , Genome, Viral , Humans , Nucleocapsid Proteins/chemistry , Nucleocapsid Proteins/drug effects , Protein Folding , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Small Molecule Libraries , Temperature
EMBO J ; 39(20): e105938, 2020 10 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-750343


COVID-19, caused by SARS-CoV-2, has resulted in severe and unprecedented economic and social disruptions in the world. Nucleocapsid (N) protein, which is the major structural component of the virion and is involved in viral replication, assembly and immune regulation, plays key roles in the viral life cycle. Here, we solved the crystal structures of the N- and C-terminal domains (N-NTD and N-CTD) of SARS-CoV-2 N protein, at 1.8 and 1.5 Å resolution, respectively. Both structures show conserved features from other CoV N proteins. The binding sites targeted by small molecules against HCoV-OC43 and MERS-CoV, which inhibit viral infection by blocking the RNA-binding activity or normal oligomerization of N protein, are relatively conserved in our structure, indicating N protein is a promising drug target. In addition, certain areas of N-NTD and N-CTD display distinct charge distribution patterns in SARS-CoV-2, which may alter the RNA-binding modes. The specific antigenic characteristics are critical for developing specific immune-based rapid diagnostic tests. Our structural information can aid in the discovery and development of antiviral inhibitors against SARS-CoV-2 in the future.

Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Betacoronavirus/chemistry , Drug Design , Nucleocapsid Proteins/chemistry , Betacoronavirus/drug effects , Coronavirus Nucleocapsid Proteins , Crystallography, X-Ray , Drug Delivery Systems , Humans , Models, Molecular , Nucleocapsid Proteins/drug effects , Phosphoproteins , Protein Conformation , Protein Domains , Recombinant Proteins/chemistry , SARS-CoV-2