Cleavage targets and the D-arginine-based inhibitors of the West Nile virus NS3 processing proteinase.
ABSTRACT: Mosquito-borne WNV (West Nile virus) is an emerging global threat. The NS3 proteinase, which is essential for the proteolytic processing of the viral polyprotein precursor, is a promising drug target. We have isolated and biochemically characterized the recombinant, highly active NS3 proteinase. We have determined that the NS3 proteinase functions in a manner that is distantly similar to furin in cleaving the peptide and protein substrates. We determined that aprotinin and D-arginine-based 9-12-mer peptides are potent inhibitors of WNV NS3 with K(i) values of 26 nM and 1 nM respectively. Consistent with the essential role of NS3 activity in the life cycle of WNV and with the sensitivity of NS3 activity to the D-arginine-based peptides, we showed that nona-D-Arg-NH2 reduced WNV infection in primary neurons. We have also shown that myelin basic protein, a deficiency of which is linked to neurological abnormalities of the brain, is sensitive to NS3 proteolysis in vitro and therefore this protein represents a convenient test substrate for the studies of NS3. A three-dimensional model of WNV NS3 that we created may provide a structural guidance and a rationale for the subsequent design of fine-tuned inhibitors. Overall, our findings represent a foundation for in-depth mechanistic and structural studies as well as for the design of novel and efficient inhibitors of WNV NS3.
Project description:Similar to many flavivirus types including Dengue and yellow fever viruses, the nonstructural NS3 multifunctional protein of West Nile virus (WNV) with an N-terminal serine proteinase domain and an RNA triphosphatase, an NTPase domain, and an RNA helicase in the C-terminal domain is implicated in both polyprotein processing and RNA replication and is therefore a promising drug target. To exhibit its proteolytic activity, NS3 proteinase requires the presence of the cofactor encoded by the upstream NS2B sequence. During our detailed investigation of the biology of the WNV helicase, we characterized the ATPase and RNA/DNA unwinding activities of the full-length NS2B-NS3 proteinase-helicase protein as well as the individual NS3 helicase domain lacking both the NS2B cofactor and the NS3 proteinase sequence and the individual NS3 proteinase-helicase lacking only the NS2B cofactor. We determined that both the NS3 helicase and NS3 proteinase-helicase constructs are capable of unwinding both the DNA and the RNA templates. In contrast, the full-length NS2B-NS3 proteinase-helicase unwinds only the RNA templates, whereas its DNA unwinding activity is severely repressed. Our data suggest that the productive, catalytically competent fold of the NS2B-NS3 proteinase moiety represents an essential component of the RNA-DNA substrate selectivity mechanism in WNV and, possibly, in other flaviviruses. Based on our data, we hypothesize that the mechanism we have identified plays a role yet to be determined in WNV replication occurring both within the virus-induced membrane-bound replication complexes in the host cytoplasm and in the nuclei of infected cells.
Project description:The flavivirus NS2B-NS3(pro)teinase is an essential element in the proteolytic processing of the viral precursor polyprotein and therefore a potential drug target. Recently, crystal structures and substrate preferences of NS2B-NS3pro from Dengue and West Nile viruses (DV and WNV) were determined. We established that the presence of Gly-Gly at the P1'-P2' positions is optimal for cleavage by WNV NS3pro, whereas DV NS3pro tolerates well the presence of bulky residues at either P1' or P2'. Structure-based modeling suggests that Arg(76) and Pro(131)-Thr(132) limit the P1'-P2' subsites and restrict the cleavage preferences of the WNV enzyme. In turn, Leu(76) and Lys(131)-Pro(132) widen the specificity of DV NS3pro. Guided by these structural models, we expressed and purified mutant WNV NS2B-NS3pro and evaluated cleavage preferences by using positional scanning of the substrate peptides in which the P4-P1 and the P3'-P4' positions were fixed and the P1' and P2' positions were each randomized. We established that WNV R76L and P131K-T132P mutants acquired DV-like cleavage preferences, whereas T52V had no significant effect. Our work is the first instance of engineering a viral proteinase with switched cleavage preferences and should provide valuable data for the design of optimized substrates and substrate-based selective inhibitors of flaviviral proteinases.
Project description:There is a need to develop inhibitors of mosquito-borne flaviviruses, including WNV (West Nile virus). In the present paper, we describe a novel and efficient recombinant-antibody technology that led us to the isolation of inhibitory high-affinity human antibodies to the active-site region of a viral proteinase. As a proof-of-principal, we have successfully used this technology and the synthetic naive human combinatorial antibody library HuCAL GOLD(R) to isolate selective and potent function-blocking active-site-targeting antibodies to the two-component WNV NS (non-structural protein) 2B-NS3 serine proteinase, the only proteinase encoded by the flaviviral genome. First, we used the wild-type enzyme in antibody screens. Next, the positive antibody clones were counter-screened using an NS2B-NS3 mutant with a single mutation of the catalytically essential active-site histidine residue. The specificity of the antibodies to the active site was confirmed by substrate-cleavage reactions and also by using proteinase mutants with additional single amino-acid substitutions in the active-site region. The selected WNV antibodies did not recognize the structurally similar viral proteinases from Dengue virus type 2 and hepatitis C virus, and human serine proteinases. Because of their high selectivity and affinity, the identified human antibodies are attractive reagents for both further mutagenesis and structure-based optimization and, in addition, for studies of NS2B-NS3 activity. Conceptually, it is likely that the generic technology reported in the present paper will be useful for the generation of active-site-specific antibody probes for multiple enzymes.
Project description:The mosquito-transmitted dengue virus (DENV) infects millions of people in tropical and subtropical regions. Maturation of DENV particles requires proper cleavage of the viral polyprotein, including processing of 8 of the 13 substrate cleavage sites by dengue virus NS2B/NS3 protease. With no available direct-acting antiviral targeting DENV, NS2/NS3 protease is a promising target for inhibitor design. Current design efforts focus on the nonprime side of the DENV protease active site, resulting in highly hydrophilic and nonspecific scaffolds. However, the prime side also significantly modulates DENV protease binding affinity, as revealed by engineering the binding loop of aprotinin, a small protein with high affinity for DENV protease. In this study, we designed a series of cyclic peptides interacting with both sides of the active site as inhibitors of dengue virus protease. The design was based on two aprotinin loops and aimed to leverage both key specific interactions of substrate sequences and the entropic advantage driving aprotinin's high affinity. By optimizing the cyclization linker, length, and amino acid sequence, the tightest cyclic peptide achieved a Ki value of 2.9 ?M against DENV3 wild-type (WT) protease. These inhibitors provide proof of concept that both sides of DENV protease active site can be exploited to potentially achieve specificity and lower hydrophilicity in the design of inhibitors targeting DENV.IMPORTANCE Viruses of the flaviviral family, including DENV and Zika virus transmitted by Aedes aegypti, continue to be a threat to global health by causing major outbreaks in tropical and subtropical regions, with no available direct-acting antivirals for treatment. A better understanding of the molecular requirements for the design of potent and specific inhibitors against flaviviral proteins will contribute to the development of targeted therapies for infections by these viruses. The cyclic peptides reported here as DENV protease inhibitors provide novel scaffolds that enable exploiting the prime side of the protease active site, with the aim of achieving better specificity and lower hydrophilicity than those of current scaffolds in the design of antiflaviviral inhibitors.
Project description:Regulated proteolysis of the polyprotein precursor by the NS2B-NS3 protease is required for the propagation of infectious virions. Unless the structural and functional parameters of NS2B-NS3 are precisely determined, an understanding of its functional role and the design of flaviviral inhibitors will be exceedingly difficult. Our objectives were to define the substrate recognition pattern of the NS2B-NS3 protease of West Nile and Dengue virises (WNV and DV respectively). To accomplish our goals, we used an efficient, 96-well plate format, method for the synthesis of 9-mer peptide substrates with the general P4-P3-P2-P1-P1'-P2'-P3'-P4'-Gly structure. The N-terminus and the constant C-terminal Gly of the peptides were tagged with a fluorescent tag and with a biotin tag respectively. The synthesis was followed by the proteolytic cleavage of the synthesized, tagged peptides. Because of the strict requirement for the presence of basic amino acid residues at the P1 and the P2 substrate positions, the analysis of approx. 300 peptide sequences was sufficient for an adequate representation of the cleavage preferences of the WNV and DV proteinases. Our results disclosed the strict substrate specificity of the WNV protease for which the (K/R)(K/R)R/GG amino acid motifs was optimal. The DV protease was less selective and it tolerated well the presence of a number of amino acid residue types at either the P1' or the P2' site, as long as the other position was occupied by a glycine residue. We believe that our data represent a valuable biochemical resource and a solid foundation to support the design of selective substrates and synthetic inhibitors of flaviviral proteinases.
Project description:West Nile virus (WNV) and Dengue virus (DENV) replication depends on the viral NS2B-NS3 protease and the host enzyme furin, which emerged as potential drug targets. Modification of our previously described WNV protease inhibitors by basic phenylalanine analogs provided compounds with reduced potency against the WNV and DENV protease. In a second series, their decarboxylated P1-trans-(4-guanidino)cyclohexylamide was replaced by an arginyl-amide moiety. Compound 4-(guanidinomethyl)-phenylacetyl-Lys-Lys-Arg-NH2 inhibits the NS2B-NS3 protease of WNV with an inhibition constant of 0.11 µM. Due to the similarity in substrate specificity, we have also tested the potency of our previously described multibasic furin inhibitors. Their further modification provided chimeric inhibitors with additional potency against the WNV and DENV proteases. A strong inhibition of WNV and DENV replication in cell culture was observed for the specific furin inhibitors, which reduced virus titers up to 10,000-fold. These studies reveal that potent inhibitors of furin can block the replication of DENV and WNV.
Project description:West Nile virus (WNV) is a member of the flavivirus genus belonging to the Flaviviridae family. The viral serine protease NS2B/NS3 has been considered an attractive target for the development of anti-WNV agents. Although several NS2B/NS3 protease inhibitors have been described so far, most of them are reversible inhibitors. Herein, we present a series of ?-aminoalkylphosphonate diphenyl esters and their peptidyl derivatives as potent inhibitors of the NS2B/NS3 protease. The most potent inhibitor identified was Cbz-Lys-Arg-(4-GuPhe)<sup>P</sup>(OPh)<sub>2</sub> displaying K<sub>i</sub> and k<sub>2</sub>/K<sub>i</sub> values of 0.4 µM and 28 265 M<sup>-1</sup>s<sup>-1</sup>, respectively, with no significant inhibition of trypsin, cathepsin G, and HAT protease.
Project description:West Nile virus (WNV) has recently emerged in North America as a significant disease threat to humans and animals. Unfortunately, no approved antiviral drugs exist to combat WNV or other members of the genus Flavivirus in humans. The WNV NS2B-NS3 protease has been one of the primary targets for anti-WNV drug discovery and design since it is required for virus replication. As part of our efforts to develop effective WNV inhibitors, we reexamined the reaction kinetics of the NS2B-NS3 protease and the inhibition mechanisms of newly discovered inhibitors. The WNV protease showed substrate inhibition in assays utilizing fluorophore-linked peptide substrates GRR, GKR, and DFASGKR. Moreover, a substrate inhibition reaction step was required to accurately model kinetic data generated from protease assays with a peptide inhibitor. The substrate inhibition model suggested that peptide substrates could bind to two binding sites on the protease. Reaction product analogues also showed inhibition of the protease, demonstrating product inhibition in addition to and distinct from substrate inhibition. We propose that small peptide substrates and inhibitors may interact with protease residues that form either the P3-P1 binding surface (i.e., the S3-S1 sites) or the P1'-P3' interaction surface (i.e., the S1'-S3' sites). Optimization of substrate analogue inhibitors that target these two independent sites may lead to novel anti-WNV drugs.
Project description:Dengue fever, dengue haemorrhagic fever, and dengue shock syndrome are caused by infections with any of the four serotypes of the dengue virus (DENV), and are an increasing global health risk. The related West Nile virus (WNV) causes significant morbidity and mortality as well, and continues to be a threat in endemic areas. Currently no FDA-approved vaccines or therapeutics are available to prevent or treat any of these infections. Like the other members of Flaviviridae, DENV and WNV encode a protease (NS3) which is essential for viral replication and therefore is a promising target for developing therapies to treat dengue and West Nile infections.Flaviviral protease inhibitors were identified and biologically characterized for mechanism of inhibition and DENV antiviral activity.A guanidinylated 2,5-dideoxystreptamine class of compounds was identified that competitively inhibited the NS3 protease from DENV(1-4) and WNV with 50% inhibitory concentration values in the 1-70 ?M range. Cytotoxicity was low; however, antiviral activity versus DENV-2 on VERO cells was not detectable.This class of compounds is the first to demonstrate competitive pan-dengue and WNV NS3 protease inhibition and, given the sequence conservation among flavivirus NS3 proteins, suggests that developing a pan-dengue or possibly pan-flavivirus therapeutic is feasible.
Project description:Pathogenic members of the flavivirus family, including West Nile Virus (WNV) and Dengue Virus (DV), are growing global threats for which there are no specific treatments. The two-component flaviviral enzyme NS2B-NS3 cleaves the viral polyprotein precursor within the host cell, a process that is required for viral replication. Here, we report the crystal structure of WNV NS2B-NS3pro both in a substrate-free form and in complex with the trypsin inhibitor aprotinin/BPTI. We show that aprotinin binds in a substrate-mimetic fashion in which the productive conformation of the protease is fully formed, providing evidence for an "induced fit" mechanism of catalysis and allowing us to rationalize the distinct substrate specificities of WNV and DV proteases. We also show that the NS2B cofactor of WNV can adopt two very distinct conformations and that this is likely to be a general feature of flaviviral proteases, providing further opportunities for regulation. Finally, by comparing the flaviviral proteases with the more distantly related Hepatitis C virus, we provide insights into the evolution of the Flaviviridae fold. Our work should expedite the design of protease inhibitors to treat a range of flaviviral infections.