Testing therapeutics in cell-based assays: Factors that influence the apparent potency of drugs.
ABSTRACT: Identifying effective antivirals for treating Ebola virus disease (EVD) and minimizing transmission of such disease is critical. A variety of cell-based assays have been developed for evaluating compounds for activity against Ebola virus. However, very few reports discuss the variable assay conditions that can affect the results obtained from these drug screens. Here, we describe variable conditions tested during the development of our cell-based drug screen assays designed to identify compounds with anti-Ebola virus activity using established cell lines and human primary cells. The effect of multiple assay readouts and variable assay conditions, including virus input, time of infection, and the cell passage number, were compared, and the impact on the effective concentration for 50% and/ or 90% inhibition (EC50, EC90) was evaluated using the FDA-approved compound, toremifene citrate. In these studies, we show that altering cell-based assay conditions can have an impact on apparent drug potency as measured by the EC50. These results further support the importance of developing standard operating procedures for generating reliable and reproducible in vitro data sets for potential antivirals.
Project description:Ebola virus (EBOV) causes highly lethal disease outbreaks against which no FDA-approved countermeasures are available. Although many host factors exploited by EBOV for cell entry have been identified, including host cell surface phosphatidylserine receptors, endosomal cysteine proteases, and the lysosomal cholesterol trafficking protein NPC1, key questions remain. Specifically, late entry steps culminating in viral membrane fusion remain enigmatic. Here, we investigated a set of glycoprotein (GP) mutants previously hypothesized to be entry defective and identified one mutation, R64A, that abolished infection with no apparent impact on GP expression, folding, or viral incorporation. R64A profoundly thermostabilized EBOV GP and rendered it highly resistant to proteolysis in vitro Forward-genetics and cell entry studies strongly suggested that R64A's effects on GP thermostability and proteolysis arrest viral entry at least at two distinct steps: the first upstream of NPC1 binding and the second at a late entry step downstream of fusion activation. Concordantly, toremifene, a small-molecule entry inhibitor previously shown to bind and destabilize GP, may selectively enhance the infectivity of viral particles bearing GP(R64A) at subinhibitory concentrations. R64A provides a valuable tool to further define the interplay between GP stability, proteolysis, and viral membrane fusion; to explore the rational design of stability-modulating antivirals; and to spur the development of next-generation Ebola virus vaccines with improved stability.IMPORTANCE Ebola virus is a medically relevant virus responsible for outbreaks of severe disease in western and central Africa, with mortality rates reaching as high as 90%. Despite considerable effort, there are currently no FDA-approved therapeutics or targeted interventions available, highlighting the need of development in this area. Host-cell invasion represents an attractive target for antivirals, and several drug candidates have been identified; however, our limited understanding of the complex viral entry process challenges the development of such entry-targeting drugs. Here, we report on a glycoprotein mutation that abrogates viral entry and provides insights into the final steps of this process. In addition, the hyperstabilized phenotype of this mutant makes it useful as a tool in the discovery and design of stability-modulating antivirals and next-generation vaccines against Ebola virus.
Project description:In December 2019, a new severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) causing coronavirus diseases 2019 (COVID-19) emerged in Wuhan, China. African countries see slower dynamic of COVID-19 cases and deaths. One of the assumptions that may explain this later emergence in Africa, and more particularly in malaria endemic areas, would be the use of antimalarial drugs. We investigated the in vitro antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 of several antimalarial drugs. Chloroquine (EC50 = 2.1 ?M and EC90 = 3.8 ?M), hydroxychloroquine (EC50 = 1.5 ?M and EC90 = 3.0 ?M), ferroquine (EC50 = 1.5 ?M and EC90 = 2.4 ?M), desethylamodiaquine (EC50 = 0.52 ?M and EC90 = 1.9 ?M), mefloquine (EC50 = 1.8 ?M and EC90 = 8.1 ?M), pyronaridine (EC50 = 0.72 ?M and EC90 = 0.75 ?M) and quinine (EC50 = 10.7 ?M and EC90 = 38.8 ?M) showed in vitro antiviral effective activity with IC50 and IC90 compatible with drug oral uptake at doses commonly administered in malaria treatment. The ratio Clung/EC90 ranged from 5 to 59. Lumefantrine, piperaquine and dihydroartemisinin had IC50 and IC90 too high to be compatible with expected plasma concentrations (ratio Cmax/EC90 < 0.05). Based on our results, we would expect that countries which commonly use artesunate-amodiaquine or artesunate-mefloquine report fewer cases and deaths than those using artemether-lumefantrine or dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine. It could be necessary now to compare the antimalarial use and the dynamics of COVID-19 country by country to confirm this hypothesis.
Project description:Although a group of FDA-approved drugs were previously identified with activity against Ebola virus (EBOV), most of them are not clinically useful because their human blood concentrations are not high enough to inhibit EBOV infection. We screened 795 unique three-drug combinations in an EBOV entry assay. Two sets of three-drug combinations, toremifene-mefloquine-posaconazole and toremifene-clarithromycin-posaconazole, were identified that effectively blocked EBOV entry and were further validated for inhibition of live EBOV infection. The individual drug concentrations in the combinations were reduced to clinically relevant levels. We identified mechanisms of action of these drugs: functional inhibitions of Niemann-Pick C1, acid sphingomyelinase, and lysosomal calcium release. Our findings identify the drug combinations with potential to treat EBOV infection.
Project description:We have previously identified the pyrazolobenzothiazine scaffold as a promising chemotype against hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS5B polymerase, a validated and promising anti-HCV target. Herein we describe the design, synthesis, enzymatic, and cellular characterization of new pyrazolobenzothiazines as anti-HCV inhibitors. The binding site for a representative derivative was mapped to NS5B palm site I employing a mutant counterscreen assay, thus validating our previous in silico predictions. Derivative 2b proved to be the best selective anti-HCV derivative within the new series, exhibiting a IC50 of 7.9 ?M against NS5B polymerase and antiviral effect (EC50 = 8.1 ?M; EC90 = 23.3 ?M) coupled with the absence of any antimetabolic effect (CC50 > 224 ?M; SI > 28) in a cell based HCV replicon system assay. Significantly, microscopic analysis showed that, unlike the parent compounds, derivative 2b did not show any significant cell morphological alterations. Furthermore, since most of the pyrazolobenzothiazines tested altered cell morphology, this undesired aspect was further investigated by exploring possible perturbation of lipid metabolism during compound treatment.
Project description:Background:A need to develop therapeutics to treat Ebola virus disease patients in remote and resource-challenged settings remains in the wake of the 2013-2016 epidemic in West Africa. Toward this goal, we screened drugs under consideration as treatment options and other drugs of interest, most being small molecules approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Drugs demonstrating in vitro antiviral activity were advanced for evaluation in combinations because of advantages often provided by drug cocktails. Methods:Drugs were screened for blockade of Ebola virus infection in cultured cells. Twelve drugs were tested in all (78 pair-wise) combinations, and 3 were tested in a subset of combinations. Results:Multiple synergistic drug pairs emerged, with the majority comprising 2 entry inhibitors. For the pairs of entry inhibitors studied, synergy was demonstrated at the level of virus entry into host cells. Highly synergistic pairs included aripiprazole/piperacetazine, sertraline/toremifene, sertraline/bepridil, and amodiaquine/clomiphene. Conclusions:Our study shows the feasibility of identifying pairs of approved drugs that synergistically block Ebola virus infection in cell cultures. We discuss our findings in terms of the theoretic ability of these or alternate combinations to reach therapeutic levels. Future research will assess selected combinations in small-animal models of Ebola virus disease.
Project description:The hepatitis C virus (HCV) nonstructural 5A (NS5A) protein is a clinically validated target for drugs designed to treat chronic HCV infection. This study evaluated the in vitro activity, selectivity, and resistance profile of a novel anti-HCV compound, samatasvir (IDX719), alone and in combination with other antiviral agents. Samatasvir was effective and selective against infectious HCV and replicons, with 50% effective concentrations (EC50s) falling within a tight range of 2 to 24 pM in genotype 1 through 5 replicons and with a 10-fold EC50 shift in the presence of 40% human serum in the genotype 1b replicon. The EC90/EC50 ratio was low (2.6). A 50% cytotoxic concentration (CC50) of >100 ?M provided a selectivity index of >5 × 10(7). Resistance selection experiments (with genotype 1a replicons) and testing against replicons bearing site-directed mutations (with genotype 1a and 1b replicons) identified NS5A amino acids 28, 30, 31, 32, and 93 as potential resistance loci, suggesting that samatasvir affects NS5A function. Samatasvir demonstrated an overall additive effect when combined with interferon alfa (IFN-?), ribavirin, representative HCV protease, and nonnucleoside polymerase inhibitors or the nucleotide prodrug IDX184. Samatasvir retained full activity in the presence of HIV and hepatitis B virus (HBV) antivirals and was not cross-resistant with HCV protease, nucleotide, and nonnucleoside polymerase inhibitor classes. Thus, samatasvir is a selective low-picomolar inhibitor of HCV replication in vitro and is a promising candidate for future combination therapies with other direct-acting antiviral drugs in HCV-infected patients.
Project description:Dengue virus serotypes 1-4 (DENV1-4) are transmitted by mosquitoes which cause most frequent arboviral infections in the world resulting in ∼390 million cases with ∼25,000 deaths annually. There is no vaccine or antiviral drug currently available for human use. Compounds containing quinoline scaffold were shown to inhibit flavivirus NS2B-NS3 protease (NS2B-NS3pro) with good potencies. In this study, we screened quinoline derivatives, which are known antimalarial drugs for inhibition of DENV2 and West Nile virus (WNV) replication using the corresponding replicon expressing cell-based assays. Amodiaquine (AQ), one of the 4-aminoquinoline drugs, inhibited DENV2 infectivity measured by plaque assays, with EC50 and EC90 values of 1.08±0.09μM and 2.69±0.47 μM, respectively, and DENV2 RNA replication measured by Renilla luciferase reporter assay, with EC50 value of 7.41±1.09μM in the replicon expressing cells. Cytotoxic concentration (CC50) in BHK-21 cells was 52.09±4.25μM. The replication inhibition was confirmed by plaque assay of the extracellular virions as well as by qRT-PCR of the intracellular and extracellular viral RNA levels. AQ was stable for at least 96h and had minor inhibitory effect on entry, translation, and post-replication stages in the viral life cycle. DENV protease, 5'-methyltransferase, and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase do not seem to be targets of AQ. Both p-hydroxyanilino and diethylaminomethyl moieties are important for AQ to inhibit DENV2 replication and infectivity. Our results support AQ as a promising candidate for anti-flaviviral therapy.
Project description:Ebola viruses remain a substantial threat to both civilian and military populations as bioweapons, during sporadic outbreaks, and from the possibility of accidental importation from endemic regions by infected individuals. Currently, no approved therapeutics exist to treat or prevent infection by Ebola viruses. Therefore, we performed an in vitro screen of Food and Drug Administration (FDA)- and ex-US-approved drugs and selected molecular probes to identify drugs with antiviral activity against the type species Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV). From this screen, we identified a set of selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), including clomiphene and toremifene, which act as potent inhibitors of EBOV infection. Anti-EBOV activity was confirmed for both of these SERMs in an in vivo mouse infection model. This anti-EBOV activity occurred even in the absence of detectable estrogen receptor expression, and both SERMs inhibited virus entry after internalization, suggesting that clomiphene and toremifene are not working through classical pathways associated with the estrogen receptor. Instead, the response appeared to be an off-target effect where the compounds interfere with a step late in viral entry and likely affect the triggering of fusion. These data support the screening of readily available approved drugs to identify therapeutics for the Ebola viruses and other infectious diseases. The SERM compounds described in this report are an immediately actionable class of approved drugs that can be repurposed for treatment of filovirus infections.
Project description:Pyronaridine, tilorone, and quinacrine were recently identified by a machine learning model and demonstrated <i>in vitro</i> and <i>in vivo</i> activity against Ebola virus (EBOV) and represent viable candidates for drug repurposing. The target for these molecules was previously unknown. These drugs have now been docked into the crystal structure of the ebola glycoprotein and then experimentally validated <i>in vitro</i> using microscale thermophoresis to generate <i>K</i> <sub>d</sub> values for tilorone (0.73 μM), pyronaridine (7.34 μM), and quinacrine (7.55 μM). These molecules were shown to bind with a higher affinity than the previously reported toremifene (16 μM). These three structures provide more insight into the structural diversity of ebola glycoprotein inhibitors which can be utilized in the discovery and design of additional inhibitors.
Project description:Ebolaviruses continue to pose a significant outbreak threat, and while Ebola virus (EBOV)-specific vaccines and antivirals have been licensed, efforts to develop candidates offering broad species cross-protection are continuing. The use of pseudotyped virus in place of live virus is recognised as an alternative, safer, high-throughput platform to evaluate anti-ebolavirus antibodies towards their development, yet it requires optimisation. Here, we have shown that the target cell line impacts neutralisation assay results and cannot be selected purely based on permissiveness. In expanding the platform to incorporate each of the ebolavirus species envelope glycoprotein, allowing a comprehensive assessment of cross-neutralisation, we found that the recently discovered Bombali virus has a point mutation in the receptor-binding domain which prevents entry into a hamster cell line and, importantly, shows that this virus can be cross-neutralised by EBOV antibodies and convalescent plasma.