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Papers of the Week

2023 Jan 02

Antiviral Res

Inhibition of Chikungunya virus genome replication by targeting essential RNA structures within the virus genome.



Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a pathogenic arbovirus spread by Aedes spp. mosquitos. CHIKV has a wide global prevalence and represents a significant health burden in affected populations. Symptoms of CHIKV infection include fever, rashes and debilitating joint and muscle pain, which can persist for several months to years in some patients. To date, there remains no vaccine or specific antiviral therapy against this important human pathogen. Based on our previously published structural and phenotypic analysis of the 5' region of the CHIKV genome, we designed a panel of locked nucleic acid oligonucleotides to bind structured RNA replication elements within the virus genome, which are essential for efficient CHIKV replication. Using electromobility shift assays, we confirmed the relative binding efficiencies of each LNA to target CHIKV genomic RNA. We then went on to demonstrate, using both sub-genomic replicon and infectious virus systems, that targeting individual RNA replication elements inhibits CHIKV genome replication and production of infectious virus. Time course assays demonstrated that LNAs can access the CHIKV replication complex and virus genome, during active virus replication. For the first time, these findings show that functional RNA elements can be specifically targeted during the CHIKV lifecycle and consequently represent potential novel antiviral targets.