Targeting the Fusion Process of SARS-CoV-2 Infection by Small Molecule Inhibitors

Seung Bum Park, Parker Irvin, Zongyi Hu, Mohsin Khan, Xin Hu, Qiru Zeng, Catherine Chen, Miao Xu, Madeleine Leek, Ruochen Zang, James Brett Case, Wei Zheng, Siyuan Ding, T. Jake Liang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has become a serious threat to global public health, underscoring the urgency of developing effective therapies. Therapeutics and, more specifically, direct-acting antiviral development are still very much in their infancy. Here, we report that two hepatitis C virus (HCV) fusion inhibitors identified in our previous study, dichlorcyclizine and fluoxazolevir, broadly block human coronavirus entry into various cell types. Both compounds were effective against various human-pathogenic CoVs in multiple assays based on vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) pseudotyped with the spike protein and spike-mediated syncytium formation. The antiviral effects were confirmed in SARS-CoV-2 infection systems. These compounds were equally effective against recently emerged variants, including the delta variant. Cross-linking experiments and structural modeling suggest that the compounds bind to a hydrophobic pocket near the fusion peptide of S protein, consistent with their potential mechanism of action as fusion inhibitors. In summary, these fusion inhibitors have broad-spectrum antiviral activities and may be promising leads for treatment of SARS-CoV-2, its variants, and other pathogenic CoVs. IMPORTANCE SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus that requires membrane fusion for entry into host cells. Since the fusion process is relatively conserved among enveloped viruses, we tested our HCV fusion inhibitors, dichlorcyclizine and fluoxazolevir, against SARS-CoV-2. We performed in vitro assays and demonstrated their effective antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. Cross-linking experiments and structural modeling suggest that the compounds bind to a hydrophobic pocket in spike protein to exert their inhibitory effect on the fusion step. These data suggest that both dichlorcyclizine and fluoxazolevir are promising candidates for further development as treatment for SARS-CoV-2.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03238
JournalmBio
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022

Keywords

  • Antiviral agents
  • Broad-spectrum antiviral
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Fusion inhibitor
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Structural modeling
  • Viral entry
  • Viral fusion
  • Viral variants

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