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PLoS One. 2019 Apr 11;14(4):e0214968. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0214968. eCollection 2019.

Inhibitors of signal peptide peptidase and subtilisin/kexin-isozyme 1 inhibit Ebola virus glycoprotein-driven cell entry by interfering with activity and cellular localization of endosomal cathepsins.

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Infection Biology Unit, German Primate Center-Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Göttingen, Germany.
Faculty of Biology and Psychology, University Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.
Institute of Microbiology and Virology, Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane, Senftenberg, Germany.
Institute of Virology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Hannover, Germany.
Research Center for Emerging Infections and Zoonoses, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Hannover, Germany.


Emerging viruses such as severe fever and thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV) and Ebola virus (EBOV) are responsible for significant morbidity and mortality. Host cell proteases that process the glycoproteins of these viruses are potential targets for antiviral intervention. The aspartyl protease signal peptide peptidase (SPP) has recently been shown to be required for processing of the glycoprotein precursor, Gn/Gc, of Bunyamwera virus and for viral infectivity. Here, we investigated whether SPP is also required for infectivity of particles bearing SFTSV-Gn/Gc. Entry driven by the EBOV glycoprotein (GP) and the Lassa virus glycoprotein (LASV-GPC) depends on the cysteine proteases cathepsin B and L (CatB/CatL) and the serine protease subtilisin/kexin-isozyme 1 (SKI-1), respectively, and was examined in parallel for control purposes. We found that inhibition of SPP and SKI-1 did not interfere with SFTSV Gn + Gc-driven entry but, unexpectedly, blocked entry mediated by EBOV-GP. The inhibition occurred at the stage of proteolytic activation and the SPP inhibitor was found to block CatL/CatB activity. In contrast, the SKI-1 inhibitor did not interfere with CatB/CatL activity but disrupted CatB localization in endo/lysosomes, the site of EBOV-GP processing. These results underline the potential of protease inhibitors for antiviral therapy but also show that previously characterized compounds might exert broader specificity than initially appreciated and might block viral entry via diverse mechanisms.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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