Novel Ionophores Active against La Crosse Virus Identified through Rapid Antiviral Screening

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2020 May 21;64(6):e00086-20. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00086-20. Print 2020 May 21.


Bunyaviruses are significant human pathogens, causing diseases ranging from hemorrhagic fevers to encephalitis. Among these viruses, La Crosse virus (LACV), a member of the California serogroup, circulates in the eastern and midwestern United States. While LACV infection is often asymptomatic, dozens of cases of encephalitis are reported yearly. Unfortunately, no antivirals have been approved to treat LACV infection. Here, we developed a method to rapidly test potential antivirals against LACV infection. From this screen, we identified several potential antiviral molecules, including known antivirals. Additionally, we identified many novel antivirals that exhibited antiviral activity without affecting cellular viability. Valinomycin, a potassium ionophore, was among our top targets. We found that valinomycin exhibited potent anti-LACV activity in multiple cell types in a dose-dependent manner. Valinomycin did not affect particle stability or infectivity, suggesting that it may preclude virus replication by altering cellular potassium ions, a known determinant of LACV entry. We extended these results to other ionophores and found that the antiviral activity of valinomycin extended to other viral families, including bunyaviruses (Rift Valley fever virus, Keystone virus), enteroviruses (coxsackievirus, rhinovirus), flavirivuses (Zika virus), and coronaviruses (human coronavirus 229E [HCoV-229E] and Middle East respiratory syndrome CoV [MERS-CoV]). In all viral infections, we observed significant reductions in virus titer in valinomycin-treated cells. In sum, we demonstrate the importance of potassium ions to virus infection, suggesting a potential therapeutic target to disrupt virus replication.

Keywords: La Crosse virus; antivirals; bunyaviruses; ionophores.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Coronavirus / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Encephalitis, California / drug therapy*
  • Encephalitis, California / virology
  • Enterovirus / drug effects
  • Flavivirus / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Ionophores / pharmacology*
  • La Crosse virus / drug effects*
  • Orthobunyavirus / drug effects
  • Potassium / metabolism*
  • United States
  • Valinomycin / pharmacology*
  • Virus Replication / drug effects*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Ionophores
  • Valinomycin
  • Potassium