A small molecule inhibits virion attachment to heparan sulfate- or sialic acid-containing glycans

J Virol. 2014 Jul;88(14):7806-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00896-14. Epub 2014 Apr 30.


Primary attachment to cellular glycans is a critical entry step for most human viruses. Some viruses, such as herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and hepatitis C virus (HCV), bind to heparan sulfate, whereas others, such as influenza A virus (IAV), bind to sialic acid. Receptor mimetics that interfere with these interactions are active against viruses that bind to either heparan sulfate or to sialic acid. However, no molecule that inhibits the attachment of viruses in both groups has yet been identified. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a green tea catechin, is active against many unrelated viruses, including several that bind to heparan sulfate or to sialic acid. We sought to identify the basis for the broad-spectrum activity of EGCG. Here, we show that EGCG inhibits the infectivity of a diverse group of enveloped and nonenveloped human viruses. EGCG acts directly on the virions, without affecting the fluidity or integrity of the virion envelopes. Instead, EGCG interacts with virion surface proteins to inhibit the attachment of HSV-1, HCV, IAV, vaccinia virus, adenovirus, reovirus, and vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) virions. We further show that EGCG competes with heparan sulfate for binding of HSV-1 and HCV virions and with sialic acid for binding of IAV virions. Therefore, EGCG inhibits unrelated viruses by a common mechanism. Most importantly, we have identified EGCG as the first broad-spectrum attachment inhibitor. Our results open the possibility for the development of small molecule broad-spectrum antivirals targeting virion attachment. Importance: This study shows that it is possible to develop a small molecule antiviral or microbicide active against the two largest groups of human viruses: those that bind to glycosaminoglycans and those that bind to sialoglycans. This group includes the vast majority of human viruses, including herpes simplex viruses, cytomegalovirus, influenza virus, poxvirus, hepatitis C virus, HIV, and many others.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Catechin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Catechin / isolation & purification
  • Catechin / pharmacology
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • DNA Viruses / drug effects*
  • DNA Viruses / physiology
  • Dogs
  • Heparitin Sulfate / metabolism*
  • Madin Darby Canine Kidney Cells
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid / metabolism*
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • RNA Viruses / drug effects*
  • RNA Viruses / physiology
  • Vero Cells
  • Virion / drug effects
  • Virus Attachment / drug effects*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Polysaccharides
  • Catechin
  • Heparitin Sulfate
  • epigallocatechin gallate
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid