Design, synthesis, antiviral evaluation, and In silico studies of acrylamides targeting nsP2 from Chikungunya virus.

Publication date: Oct 05, 2023

The Togaviridae family comprises several New- and Old-World Alphaviruses that have been responsible for thousands of human illnesses, including the RNA arbovirus Chikungunya virus (CHIKV). Firstly, it was reported in Tanzania in 1952 but rapidly it spread to several countries from Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Since then, CHIKV has been circulating in diverse countries around the world, leading to increased morbidity rates. Currently, there are no FDA-approved drugs or licensed vaccines to specifically treat CHIKV infections. Thus, there is a lack of alternatives to fight against this viral disease, making it an unmet need. Structurally, CHIKV is composed of five structural proteins (E3, E2, E1, C, and 6k) and four non-structural proteins (nsP1-4), in which nsP2 represents an attractive antiviral target for designing novel inhibitors since it has an essential role in the virus replication and transcription. Herein, we used a rational drug design strategy to select some acrylamide derivatives to be synthesized and evaluated against CHIKV nsP2 and also screened on CHIKV-infected cells. Thus, two regions of modifications were considered for these types of inhibitors, based on a previous study of our group, generating 1560 possible inhibitors. Then, the 24 most promising ones were synthesized and screened by using a FRET-based enzymatic assay protocol targeting CHIKV nsP2, identifying LQM330, 333, 336, and 338 as the most potent inhibitors, with K values of 48. 6 +/- 2. 8, 92. 3 +/- 1. 4, 2. 3 +/- 1. 5, and 181. 8 +/- 2. 5 μM, respectively. Still, their K and V kinetic parameters were also determined, along with their competitive binding modes of CHIKV nsP2 inhibition. Then, ITC analyses revealed K values of 127, 159, 198, and 218 μM for LQM330, 333, 336, and 338, respectively. Also, their ΔH, ΔS, and ΔG physicochemical parameters were determined. MD simulations demonstrated that these inhibitors present a stable binding mode with nsP2, interacting with important residues of this protease, according to docking analyzes. Moreover, MM/PBSA calculations displayed that van der Waals interactions are mainly responsible for stabilizing the inhibitor-nsP2 complex, and their binding energies corroborated with their K values, having -198. 7 +/- 15. 68, -124. 8 +/- 17. 27, -247. 4 +/- 23. 78, and -100. 6 +/- 19. 21 kcal/mol for LQM330, 333, 336, and 338, respectively. Since Sindbis (SINV) nsP2 is similar to CHIKV nsP2, these best inhibitors were screened against SINV-infected cells, and it was verified that LQM330 presented the best result, with an EC value of 0. 95 +/- 0. 09 μM. Even at 50 μM concentration, LQM338 was found to be cytotoxic on Vero cells after 48 h. Then, LQM330, 333, and 336 were evaluated against CHIKV-infected cells in antiviral assays, in which LQM330 was found to be the most promising antiviral candidate in this study, exhibiting an EC value of 5. 2 +/- 0. 52 μM and SI of 31. 78. The intracellular flow cytometry demonstrated that LQM330 is able to reduce the CHIKV cytopathogenic effect on cells, and also reduce the percentage of CHIKV-positive cells from 66. 1% +/- 7. 05 to 35. 8% +/- 5. 78 at 50 μM concentration. Finally, qPCR studies demonstrated that LQM330 was capable of reducing the number of viral RNA copies/μL, suggesting that CHIKV nsP2 is targeted by this inhibitor as its mechanism of action.

Concepts Keywords
50m Acrylamides
Alphaviruses Chikungunya
Asia Intracellular flow cytometry
Competitive ITC
Tanzania MM/PBSA
Molecular dynamics


Type Source Name
disease MESH viral disease
disease MESH infections
disease MESH morbidity

Original Article

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