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Virology. 1989 Jan;168(1):147-58.

Studies on the mechanism of the antiviral activity of ribavirin against reovirus.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710.


We have examined the mechanism by which ribavirin inhibits the multiplication of reovirus. At a concentration of 12.5 microM (3 micrograms/ml) ribavirin inhibits viral multiplication, ssRNA formation, dsRNA formation, and protein synthesis by about 90%; when much higher concentrations are used for brief periods of time, the primary target of ribavirin is seen to be viral ssRNA synthesis. When the effect of ribavirin triphosphate (RTP) was tested on the in vitro transcription by cores of the dsRNA genome segments into plus-stranded RNA, elongation, that is, the formation of intact mRNA molecules, was found to be inhibited to the greatest extent; initiation was at least 2.5 times less sensitive, and cap formation and methylation were almost unaffected. The inhibition of elongation and initiation was not competitive with respect to any of the four nucleoside triphosphates. Remarkably, the transcription of plus strands into minus strands by immature reovirus particles (the replicase reaction) was insensitive to RTP. A model is proposed that envisages RTP binding to a site close to the catalytic site of the transcriptase. This binding is postulated to inhibit the helicase function of the transcriptase and lower its affinity for template RNA so that the likelihood of premature termination is greatly increased. The helicase activity is not, of course, necessary for the transcription of plus strands into minus strands, which would account for the differential sensitivity of the transcriptase and the replicase to RTP.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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