Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection is associated with severe morbidity and mortality in immunocompromised individuals, mainly transplant recipients and AIDS patients, and is the most frequent cause of congenital malformations in newborn children. To date, few drugs are licensed for the treatment of HCMV infections, most of which target the viral DNA polymerase and suffer from many drawbacks, including long-term toxicity, low potency, and poor bioavailability. In addition, the emergence of drug-resistant viral strains is becoming an increasing problem for disease management. Finally, none of the current anti-HCMV drugs have been approved for the treatment of congenital infections. For all these reasons, there is still a strong need for new anti-HCMV drugs with novel mechanisms of action. The first events of the virus replication cycle, including attachment, entry, immediate-early gene expression, and immediate-early functions-in particular that of Immediate-Early 2 protein-represent attractive targets for the development of novel antiviral compounds. Such inhibitors would block not only the expression of viral immediate-early proteins, which play a key role in the pathogenesis of HCMV infection, but also the host immunomodulation and the changes to cell physiology induced by the first events of virus infection. This review describes the current knowledge on the initial phases of HCMV replication, their validation as potential novel antiviral targets, and the development of compounds that block such processes.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.