NS2B-NS3 protease inhibitors as promising compounds in the development of antivirals against Zika virus: A systematic review

J Med Virol. 2021 Oct 12. doi: 10.1002/jmv.27386. Online ahead of print.


Zika virus (ZIKV) infections are associated with severe neurological complications and are a global public health concern. There are no approved vaccines or antiviral drugs to inhibit ZIKV replication. NS2B-NS3 protease (NS2B-NS3 pro), which is essential for viral replication, is a promising molecular target for anti-ZIKV drugs. We conducted a systematic review to identify compounds with promising effects against ZIKV; we discussed their pharmacodynamic and pharmacophoric characteristics. The online search, performed using the PubMed/MEDLINE and SCOPUS databases, yielded 56 articles; seven relevant studies that reported nine promising compounds with inhibitory activity against ZIKV NS2B-NS3 pro were selected. Of these, five (niclosamide, nitazoxanide, bromocriptine, temoporfin, and novobiocin) are currently available on the market and have been tested for off-label use against ZIKV. The 50% inhibitory concentration values of these compounds for the inhibition of NS2B-NS3 pro ranged at 0.38-21.6 µM; most compounds exhibited noncompetitive inhibition (66%). All compounds that could inhibit the NS2B-NS3 pro complex showed potent in vitro anti-ZIKV activity with a 50% effective concentration ranging 0.024-50 µM. The 50% cytotoxic concentration of the compounds assayed using A549, Vero, and WRL-69 cell lines ranged at 0.6-1388.02 µM and the selectivity index was 3.07-1698. This review summarizes the most promising antiviral agents against ZIKV that have inhibitory activity against viral proteases.

Keywords: NS2B-NS3 protease; Zika virus; antiviral; enzymatic inhibition; noncompetitive inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Review