Discovery of a Potent and Selective Chikungunya Virus Envelope Protein Inhibitor through Computer-Aided Drug Design.
Battini, L., Fidalgo, D. M., Alvarez, D. E. and Bollini, M.
Laboratorio de Quimica Medicinal, Centro de Investigaciones en Bionanociencias (CIBION), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas (CONICET), Ciudad Autonoma de Buenos Aires C1425FQD, Argentina.
Instituto de Investigaciones Biotecnologicas, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas (CONICET), Universidad Nacional de San Martin, San Martin B1650, Argentina.
The worldwide expansion of chikungunya virus (CHIKV) into tropical and subtropical areas in the last 15 years has posed a currently unmet need for vaccines and therapeutics. The E2-E1 envelope glycoprotein complex binds receptors on the host cell and promotes membrane fusion during CHIKV entry, thus constituting an attractive target for the development of antiviral drugs. In order to identify CHIKV antivirals acting through inhibition of the envelope glycoprotein complex function, our first approach was to search for amenable druggable sites within the E2-E1 heterodimer. We identified a pocket located in the interface between E2 and E1 around the fusion loop. Then, via a structure-based virtual screening approach and in vitro assay of antiviral activity, we identified compound 7 as a specific inhibitor of CHIKV. Through a lead optimization process, we obtained compound 11 that demonstrated increased antiviral activity and low cytotoxicity (EC50 1.6 muM, CC50 56.0 muM). Molecular dynamics simulations were carried out and described a possible interaction pattern of compound 11 and the E1-E2 dimer that could be useful for further optimization. As expected from target site selection, compound 11 inhibited virus internalization during CHIKV entry. In addition, virus populations resistant to compound 11 included mutation E2-P173S, which mapped to the proposed binding pocket, and second site mutation E1-Y24H. Construction of recombinant viruses showed that these mutations conferred antiviral resistance in the parental background. Finally, compound 11 presents acceptable solubility values and is chemically and enzymatically stable in different media. Altogether, these findings uncover a suitable pocket for the design of CHIKV entry inhibitors with promising antiviral activity and pharmacological profiles.
ACS Infect Dis : en prensa (2021)