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Proline-Based Allosteric Inhibitors of Zika and Dengue Virus NS2B/NS3 Proteases

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posted on 13.12.2019 by Benedikt Millies, Franziska von Hammerstein, Andrea Gellert, Stefan Hammerschmidt, Fabian Barthels, Ulrike Göppel, Melissa Immerheiser, Fabian Elgner, Nathalie Jung, Michael Basic, Christian Kersten, Werner Kiefer, Jochen Bodem, Eberhard Hildt, Maike Windbergs, Ute A. Hellmich, Tanja Schirmeister
The NS2B/NS3 serine proteases of the Zika and Dengue flaviviruses are attractive targets for the development of antiviral drugs. We report the synthesis and evaluation of a new, proline-based compound class that displays allosteric inhibition of both proteases. The structural features relevant for protease binding and inhibition were determined to establish them as new lead compounds for flaviviral inhibitors. Based on our structure–activity relationship studies, the molecules were further optimized, leading to inhibitors with submicromolar IC50 values and improved lipophilic ligand efficiency. The allosteric binding site in the proteases was probed using mutagenesis and covalent modification of the obtained cysteine mutants with maleimides, followed by computational elucidation of the possible binding modes. In infected cells, antiviral activity against Dengue virus serotype 2 using prodrugs of the inhibitors was observed. In summary, a novel inhibitor scaffold targeting an allosteric site shared between flaviviral NS2B/NS3 proteases is presented whose efficacy is demonstrated in vitro and in cellulo.