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Emerging Alphaviruses Are Sensitive to Cellular States Induced by a Novel Small-Molecule Agonist of the STING Pathway

Abstract

The type I interferon (IFN) system represents an essential innate immune response that renders cells resistant to virus growth via the molecular actions of IFN-induced effector proteins. IFN-mediated cellular states inhibit growth of numerous and diverse virus types, including those of known pathogenicity as well as potentially emerging agents. As such, targeted pharmacologic activation of the IFN response may represent a novel therapeutic strategy to prevent infection or spread of clinically impactful viruses. In light of this, we employed a high-throughput screen to identify small molecules capable of permeating the cell and of activating IFN-dependent signaling processes. Here we report the identification and characterization of N-(methylcarbamoyl)-2-{[5-(4-methylphenyl)-1,3,4-oxadiazol-2-yl]sulfanyl}-2-phenylacetamide (referred to as C11), a novel compound capable of inducing IFN secretion from human cells. Using reverse genetics-based loss-of-function assays, we show that C11 activates the type I IFN response in a manner that requires the adaptor protein STING but not the alternative adaptors MAVS and TRIF. Importantly, treatment of cells with C11 generated a cellular state that potently blocked replication of multiple emerging alphavirus types, including chikungunya, Ross River, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Mayaro, and Onyong-nyong viruses. The antiviral effects of C11 were subsequently abrogated in cells lacking STING or the type I IFN receptor, indicating that they are mediated, at least predominantly, by way of STING-mediated IFN secretion and subsequent autocrine/paracrine signaling. This work also allowed characterization of differential antiviral roles of innate immune signaling adaptors and IFN-mediated responses and identified MAVS as being crucial to cellular resistance to alphavirus infection.IMPORTANCE Due to the increase in emerging arthropod-borne viruses, such as chikungunya virus, that lack FDA-approved therapeutics and vaccines, it is important to better understand the signaling pathways that lead to clearance of virus. Here we show that C11 treatment makes human cells refractory to replication of a number of these viruses, which supports its value in increasing our understanding of the immune response and viral pathogenesis required to establish host infection. We also show that C11 depends on signaling through STING to produce antiviral type I interferon, which further supports its potential as a therapeutic drug or research tool.

Authors: Gall B, Pryke K, Abraham J, Mizuno N, Botto S, Sali TM, Broeckel R, Haese N, Nilsen A, Placzek A, Morrison T, Heise M, Streblow D, DeFilippis V.
Journal: J Virol. 2018 Feb 26;92(6):e01913-17
Year: 2018
PubMed: Find in PubMed