As new pathogenic viruses continue to emerge, it is paramount to have intervention strategies that target a common denominator in these pathogens. The fusion of viral and cellular membranes during viral entry is one such process that is used by many pathogenic viruses, including chikungunya virus, West Nile virus, and influenza virus. Obatoclax, a small-molecule antagonist of the Bcl-2 family of proteins, was previously determined to have activity against influenza A virus and also Sindbis virus. Here, we report it to be active against alphaviruses, like chikungunya virus (50% effective concentration [EC50] = 0.03 μM) and Semliki Forest virus (SFV; EC50 = 0.11 μM). Obatoclax inhibited viral entry processes in an SFV temperature-sensitive mutant entry assay. A neutral red retention assay revealed that obatoclax induces the rapid neutralization of the acidic environment of endolysosomal vesicles and thereby most likely inhibits viral fusion. Characterization of escape mutants revealed that the L369I mutation in the SFV E1 fusion protein was sufficient to confer partial resistance against obatoclax. Other inhibitors that target the Bcl-2 family of antiapoptotic proteins inhibited neither viral entry nor endolysosomal acidification, suggesting that the antiviral mechanism of obatoclax does not depend on its anticancer targets. Obatoclax inhibited the growth of flaviviruses, like Zika virus, West Nile virus, and yellow fever virus, which require low pH for fusion, but not that of pH-independent picornaviruses, like coxsackievirus A9, echovirus 6, and echovirus 7. In conclusion, obatoclax is a novel inhibitor of endosomal acidification that prevents viral fusion and that could be pursued as a potential broad-spectrum antiviral candidate.
Keywords: Zika virus; antiviral; chikungunya virus; envelope protein; resistant mutant; virus entry.
Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.