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Papers of the Week

2020 Apr 22

J Virol

Serotonergic drugs inhibit CHIKV infection at different stages of the cell entry pathway.


Bouma EM, van de Pol DPI, Sanders ID, Rodenhuis-Zybert IA, Smit JM
J Virol. 2020 Apr 22.
PMID: 32321803.


Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is an important re-emerging human pathogen transmitted by mosquitoes. The virus causes an acute febrile illness, chikungunya fever, which is characterized by headache, rash and debilitating (poly)arthralgia that can reside for months to years after infection. Currently, effective antiviral therapies and vaccines are lacking. Due to the high morbidity and economic burden in the countries affected by CHIKV, there is a strong need for new strategies to inhibit CHIKV replication. The serotonergic drug, 5-nonyloxytryptamine (5-NT), was previously identified as a potential host-directed inhibitor for CHIKV infection. In this study, we determined the mechanism of action by which the serotonin receptor agonist 5-NT controls CHIKV infection. Using time-of-addition and entry bypass assays we found that 5-NT predominantly inhibits CHIKV in the early phases of the replication cycle; at a step prior to RNA translation and genome replication. Intriguingly, however, no effect was seen during virus-cell binding, internalization, membrane fusion and gRNA release into the cell cytosol. Additionally, we show that the serotonin receptor antagonist MM also has antiviral properties towards CHIKV and specifically interferes with the cell entry process and/or membrane fusion. Taken together, pharmacological targeting of 5-HT receptors may represent a potent way to limit viral spread and disease severity.The rapid spread of mosquito-borne viral diseases in humans puts a huge economic burden on developing countries. For many of these infections, including Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), there are no specific treatment possibilities to alleviate disease symptoms. Understanding the virus:host interactions that are involved in the viral replication cycle is imperative for the rational design of therapeutic strategies. In this study, we discovered an antiviral compound and elucidated the mechanism of action and propose serotonergic drugs as potential host-directed antivirals for CHIKV.