Japanese encephalitis is a zoonotic disease caused by the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). It is mainly epidemic in Asia with an estimated 69,000 cases occurring per year. However, no approved agents are available for the treatment of JEV infection, and existing vaccines cannot control various types of JEV strains. Drug repurposing is a new concept for finding new indication of existing drugs, and, recently, the concept has been used to discover new antiviral agents. Identifying host proteins involved in the progress of JEV infection and using these proteins as targets are the center of drug repurposing for JEV infection. In this study, based on the gene expression data of JEV infection and the phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) data, we identified 286 genes that participate in the progress of JEV infection using systems biology methods. The enrichment analysis of these genes suggested that the genes identified by our methods were predominantly related to viral infection pathways and immune response-related pathways. We found that bortezomib, which can target these genes, may have an effect on the treatment of JEV infection. Subsequently, we evaluated the antiviral activity of bortezomib using a JEV-infected mouse model. The results showed that bortezomib can lower JEV-induced lethality in mice, alleviate suffering in JEV-infected mice and reduce the damage in brains caused by JEV infection. This work provides an agent with new indication to treat JEV infection.
Keywords: Japanese encephalitis virus; antiviral agents; drug repurposing; systems biology.