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Antiviral Res. 2020 Jan 10;175:104708. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2020.104708. [Epub ahead of print]

Evaluation of sofosbuvir activity and resistance profile against West Nile virus in vitro.

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Department of Medical Biotechnologies, University of Siena, Italy.
Department of Biotechnology, Chemistry and Pharmacy, University of Siena, Italy.
National Research Council, Biophysics Institute of Milano, Italy.
Department of Medical Biotechnologies, University of Siena, Italy. Electronic address:


Sofosbuvir, a licensed nucleotide analog targeting hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), has been recently evaluated as a broad anti-Flavivirus lead candidate revealing activity against Zika and Dengue viruses both in vitro and in animal models. In this study, the in vitro antiviral activity of sofosbuvir against West Nile virus (WNV) was determined by plaque assay (PA) and Immunodetection Assay (IA) in human cell lines and by enzymatic RdRp assay. By PA, the sofosbuvir half-maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) was 1.2 ± 0.3 μM in Huh-7, 5.3 ± 0.9 μM in U87, 7.8 ± 2.5 μM in LN-18 and 63.4 ± 14.1 μM in A549 cells. By IA, anti-WNV activity was confirmed in both hepatic (Huh-7, 1.7 ± 0.5 μM) and neuronal (U87, 7.3 ± 2.0 μM) cell types. Sofosbuvir was confirmed to inhibit the purified WNV RdRp (IC50 11.1 ± 4.6 μM). In vitro resistance selection experiments were performed by propagating WNV in the Huh-7 cell line with two-fold increasing concentrations of sofosbuvir. At 80 μM, a significantly longer time for viral breakthrough was observed compared with lower concentrations (18 vs. 7-9 days post infection; p = 0.029), along with the detection of the S604T mutation, corresponding to the well-known S282T substitution in the motif B of HCV NS5B, which confers resistance to sofosbuvir. Molecular docking experiments confirmed that the S604T mutation within the catalytic site of RdRp affected the binding mode of sofosbuvir. To our knowledge, this is the first report of the antiviral activity of sofosbuvir against WNV as well as of selection of mutants in vitro.

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