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Antiviral Res. 2018 Nov;159:84-94. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2018.09.012. Epub 2018 Sep 27.

Novel cytomegalovirus-inhibitory compounds of the class pyrrolopyridines show a complex pattern of target binding that suggests an unusual mechanism of antiviral activity.

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Institute for Clinical and Molecular Virology, Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Schlossgarten 4, 91054 Erlangen, Germany.
4SC AG, Am Klopferspitz 19a, 82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.
Serology and Virology Division, SEALS Microbiology Prince of Wales Hospital Randwick, School of Women's and Children's Health, School of Medical Sciences, School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of NSW, Sydney, Australia.
University Grenoble Alpes, CEA, INSERM, BIG-BGE, F-38000 Grenoble, France.
Institute for Clinical and Molecular Virology, Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Schlossgarten 4, 91054 Erlangen, Germany. Electronic address:


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a major human pathogen with seropositivity rates in the adult population ranging between 40% and 95%. HCMV infection is associated with severe pathology, such as life-threatening courses of infection in immunocompromised individuals and neonates. Current standard therapy with valganciclovir has the disadvantage of adverse side effects and viral drug resistance. A novel anti-HCMV drug, letermovir, has been approved recently, so that improved therapy options are available. Nevertheless, even more so far unexploited classes of compounds and molecular modes of action will be required for a next generation of antiherpesviral treatment strategies. In this study, we focused on the analysis of the antiviral potency of a novel class of compounds, i.e. pyrrolopyridine analogs, and identified both hit compounds and their target protein candidates. In essence, we provide novel evidence as follows: (i) screening hit SC88941 is highly active in inhibiting HCMV replication in primary human fibroblasts with an EC50 value of 0.20 ± 0.01 μM in the absence of cytotoxicity, (ii) inhibition occurs at the early-late stage of viral protein production and shows reinforcing effects upon LMV cotreatment, (iii) among the viruses analyzed, antiviral activity was most pronounced against β-herpesviruses (HCMV, HHV-6A) and intermediate against adenovirus (HAdV-2), (iv) induction of SC88941 resistance was not detectable, thus differed from the induction of ganciclovir resistance, (v) a linker-coupled model compound was used for mass spectrometry-based target identification, thus yielding several drug-binding target proteins and (vi) a first confocal imaging approach used for addressing intracellular effects of SC88941 indicated qualitative and quantitative alteration of viral protein expression and localization. Thus, our findings suggest a multifaceted pattern of compound-target binding in connection with an unusual mode of action, opening up further opportunities of antiviral drug development.


Antiviral compounds; Biological properties and mode of action; Drug immobilization by linker coupling; Experimental drug development; Human cytomegalovirus; Mass spectrometry-based target identification

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