Inhibition of Human Adenovirus Replication by the Importin α/β1 Nuclear Import Inhibitor Ivermectin

J Virol. 2020 Aug 31;94(18):e00710-20. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00710-20. Print 2020 Aug 31.


Human adenoviruses (HAdV) are ubiquitous within the human population and comprise a significant burden of respiratory illnesses worldwide. Pediatric and immunocompromised individuals are at particular risk for developing severe disease; however, no approved antiviral therapies specific to HAdV exist. Ivermectin is an FDA-approved broad-spectrum antiparasitic drug that also exhibits antiviral properties against a diverse range of viruses. Its proposed function is inhibiting the classical protein nuclear import pathway mediated by importin-α (Imp-α) and -β1 (Imp-β1). Many viruses, including HAdV, rely on this host pathway for transport of viral proteins across the nuclear envelope. In this study, we show that ivermectin inhibits HAdV-C5 early gene transcription, early and late protein expression, genome replication, and production of infectious viral progeny. Similarly, ivermectin inhibits genome replication of HAdV-B3, a clinically important pathogen responsible for numerous recent outbreaks. Mechanistically, we show that ivermectin disrupts binding of the viral E1A protein to Imp-α without affecting the interaction between Imp-α and Imp-β1. Our results further extend ivermectin's broad antiviral activity and provide a mechanistic underpinning for its mode of action as an inhibitor of cellular Imp-α/β1-mediated nuclear import.IMPORTANCE Human adenoviruses (HAdVs) represent a ubiquitous and clinically important pathogen without an effective antiviral treatment. HAdV infections typically cause mild symptoms; however, individuals such as children, those with underlying conditions, and those with compromised immune systems can develop severe disseminated disease. Our results demonstrate that ivermectin, an FDA-approved antiparasitic agent, is effective at inhibiting replication of several HAdV types in vitro This is in agreement with the growing body of literature suggesting ivermectin has broad antiviral activity. This study expands our mechanistic knowledge of ivermectin by showing that ivermectin targets the ability of importin-α (Imp-α) to recognize nuclear localization sequences, without effecting the Imp-α/β1 interaction. These data also exemplify the applicability of targeting host factors upon which viruses rely as a viable antiviral strategy.

Keywords: E1A; adenoviruses; ivermectin; nuclear import.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus / drug effects*
  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Adenoviruses, Human / drug effects*
  • Adenoviruses, Human / genetics
  • Adenoviruses, Human / metabolism
  • Adenoviruses, Human / pathogenicity
  • Antiparasitic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Nucleus / drug effects
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cell Nucleus / virology
  • Cytosol / drug effects
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Cytosol / virology
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / virology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / drug effects
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics
  • Humans
  • Ivermectin / pharmacology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Viral Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism
  • Virus Replication / drug effects*
  • alpha Karyopherins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • alpha Karyopherins / genetics*
  • alpha Karyopherins / metabolism
  • beta Karyopherins / genetics*
  • beta Karyopherins / metabolism


  • Antiparasitic Agents
  • Viral Proteins
  • alpha Karyopherins
  • beta Karyopherins
  • Ivermectin