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Pharmacological perturbation of intracellular dynamics as a SARS-CoV-2 antiviral strategy

By William Bakhache, Emma Partiot, Vincent Lucansky, Yonis Bare, Boris Bonaventure, Caroline Goujon, Cedric Bories, Maika S Deffieu, Raphael Gaudin

Posted 10 Sep 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.09.10.459410

SARS-CoV-2 (CoV2) is the viral agent responsible for the pandemic of the scoronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Vaccines are being deployed all over the world with good efficacy, but there is no approved antiviral treatment to date. This is particularly needed since the emergence of variants and the potential immune escape may prolong pandemic spreading of the infection for much longer than anticipated. Here, we developed a series of small molecules and identified RG10 as a potent antiviral compound against SARS-CoV-2 in cell lines and human airway epithelia (HAE). RG10 localizes to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membranes, perturbing ER morphology and inducing ER stress. Yet, RG10 does not associate with SARS-CoV-2 replication sites although preventing virus replication. To further investigate the antiviral properties of our compound, we developed fluorescent SARS-CoV-2 viral particles allowing us to track virus arrival to ER membranes. Live cell imaging of replication-competent virus infection revealed that RG10 stalls the intracellular virus-ER dynamics. Finally, we synthesized RG10b, a stable version of RG10, that showed increased potency in vitro and in HAE with a pharmacokinetic half-life greater than 2 h. Together, our work reports on a novel fluorescent virus model and innovative antiviral strategy consisting of the perturbation of ER/virus dynamics, highlighting the promising antiviral properties of RG10 and RG10b.

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