Allosteric Inhibition of Neutral Sphingomyelinase 2 (nSMase2) by DPTIP: From Antiflaviviral Activity to Deciphering Its Binding Site through In Silico Studies and Experimental Validation

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Nov 11;23(22):13935. doi: 10.3390/ijms232213935.


Flavivirus comprises globally emerging and re-emerging pathogens such as Zika virus (ZIKV), Dengue virus (DENV), and West Nile virus (WNV), among others. Although some vaccines are available, there is an unmet medical need as no effective antiviral treatment has been approved for flaviviral infections. The development of host-directed antivirals (HDAs) targeting host factors that are essential for viral replication cycle offers the opportunity for the development of broad-spectrum antivirals. In the case of flaviviruses, recent studies have revealed that neutral sphingomyelinase 2, (nSMase2), involved in lipid metabolism, plays a key role in WNV and ZIKV infection. As a proof of concept, we have determined the antiviral activity of the non-competitive nSMase2 inhibitor DPTIP against WNV and ZIKV virus. DPTIP showed potent antiviral activity with EC50 values of 0.26 µM and 1.56 µM for WNV and ZIKV, respectively. In order to unravel the allosteric binding site of DPTIP in nSMase2 and the details of the interaction, computational studies have been carried out. These studies have revealed that DPTIP could block the DK switch in nSMase2. Moreover, the analysis of the residues contributing to the binding identified His463 as a crucial residue. Interestingly, the inhibitory activity of DPTIP on the H463A mutant protein supported our hypothesis. Thus, an allosteric cavity in nSMase2 has been identified that can be exploited for the development of new inhibitors with anti-flaviviral activity.

Keywords: allosteric inhibition; flavivirus; host-targeted antivirals; nSMase2.

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Site
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase
  • West Nile virus* / physiology
  • Zika Virus Infection*
  • Zika Virus*


  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase
  • Antiviral Agents