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J Virol. 2012 Jun;86(12):6537-45. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00094-12. Epub 2012 Apr 11.

Simultaneous treatment of human bronchial epithelial cells with serine and cysteine protease inhibitors prevents severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus entry.

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Department of Virology III, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Murayama Branch, Gakuen Musashi-Murayama, Tokyo, Japan.


The type II transmembrane protease TMPRSS2 activates the spike (S) protein of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) on the cell surface following receptor binding during viral entry into cells. In the absence of TMPRSS2, SARS-CoV achieves cell entry via an endosomal pathway in which cathepsin L may play an important role, i.e., the activation of spike protein fusogenicity. This study shows that a commercial serine protease inhibitor (camostat) partially blocked infection by SARS-CoV and human coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63) in HeLa cells expressing the receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and TMPRSS2. Simultaneous treatment of the cells with camostat and EST [(23,25)trans-epoxysuccinyl-L-leucylamindo-3-methylbutane ethyl ester], a cathepsin inhibitor, efficiently prevented both cell entry and the multistep growth of SARS-CoV in human Calu-3 airway epithelial cells. This efficient inhibition could be attributed to the dual blockade of entry from the cell surface and through the endosomal pathway. These observations suggest camostat as a candidate antiviral drug to prevent or depress TMPRSS2-dependent infection by SARS-CoV.

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