Viruses co-opt host proteins to carry out their lifecycle. Repurposed host proteins may thus become functionally compromised; a situation analogous to a loss-of-function mutation. We term such host proteins viral-induced hypomorphs. Cells bearing cancer driver loss-of-function mutations have successfully been targeted with drugs perturbing proteins encoded by the synthetic lethal partners of cancer-specific mutations. Synthetic lethal interactions of viral-induced hypomorphs have the potential to be similarly targeted for the development of host-based antiviral therapeutics. Here, we use GBF1, which supports the infection of many RNA viruses, as a proof-of-concept. GBF1 becomes a hypomorph upon interaction with the poliovirus protein 3A. Screening for synthetic lethal partners of GBF1 revealed ARF1 as the top hit, disruption of which, selectively killed cells that synthesize poliovirus 3A. Thus, viral protein interactions can induce hypomorphs that render host cells vulnerable to perturbations that leave uninfected cells intact. Exploiting viral-induced vulnerabilities could lead to broad-spectrum antivirals for many viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.
Summary: Using a viral-induced hypomorph of GBF1, Navare et al., demonstrate that the principle of synthetic lethality is a mechanism to selectively kill virus-infected cells.