Picornaviridae is one of the largest viral families and is composed of 14 genera, six of which include human pathogens. The best known picornaviruses are enteroviruses (including polio, PV, and rhinoviruses), foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV), and hepatitis A virus (HAV). Although infections often are mild, certain strains may cause pandemic outbreaks accompanied with meningitis and/or paralysis. Vaccines are available for PV, HAV and FMDV. When the oral vaccines are given to immunocompromised individuals, they may be chronically infected, and remain secretors of vaccine-derived variants of virus for years. There is no effective prophylaxis available for these or other picornaviruses. So far, only the 3C protease from viruses in three genera has been fully characterized as an anti-viral target, whereas the mode of action of compounds targeting other non-structural proteins have remained largely unaddressed. Within the EU-supported FP6 project-VIZIER (Comparative Structural Genomics of Viral Enzymes Involved in Replication), the non-structural proteins were studied to identify conserved binding sites for broadly reactive anti-virals. The putative 2C helicase from echovirus-30 was shown to form ring-shaped hexamers typical for DNA-encoded SF3 helicases, and to possess ATPase activity. Hexamer formation of 2C from enterovirus 76 was in vitro shown to be dependent on the 44 N-terminal residues. Crystal structures of three enterovirus 3C proteases were solved and shown to be similar to those of other picornaviruses. A new binding site of VPg to the bottom of the thumb domain of CV-B3 3D polymerase was identified as a potential target. Broad anti-enterovirus compounds against 2C and 3A proteins were also identified, including thiazolobenzimidazoles (active against 2C) and TTP-8307 (targeting 3A). There is a need for more potent inhibitors against PV and other picornaviruses, which are potential silent reservoirs for re-emerging PV-like disease.
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