Evaluation of luciferase and GFP-expressing Nipah viruses for rapid quantitative antiviral screening

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HighlightsLuciferase and GFP reporter Nipah viruses have robust signal-to-noise ratios and Z′-factors.IFN signaling-independent factors may have crucial roles in blocking Nipah replication.Counter-screening with wild-type virus confirms reporters as robust tools to test antivirals.Nipah virus (NiV) outbreaks have occurred in Malaysia, India, and Bangladesh, and the virus continues to cause annual outbreaks of fatal human encephalitis in Bangladesh due to spillover from its bat host reservoir. Due to its high pathogenicity, its potential use for bio/agro-terrorism, and to the current lack of approved therapeutics, NiV is designated as an overlap select agent requiring biosafety level-4 containment. Although the development of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies and soluble protein subunit vaccines have shown great promise, the paucity of effective antiviral drugs against NiV merits further exploration of compound libraries using rapid quantitative antiviral assays. As a proof-of-concept study, we evaluated the use of fluorescent and luminescent reporter NiVs for antiviral screening. We constructed and rescued NiVs expressing either Renilla luciferase or green fluorescent protein, and characterized their reporter signal kinetics in different cell types as well as in the presence of several inhibitors. The 50% effective concentrations (EC50s) derived for inhibitors against both reporter viruses are within range of EC50s derived from virus yield-based dose–response assays against wild-type NiV (within 1 Log10), thus demonstrating that both reporter NiVs can serve as robust antiviral screening tools. Utilizing these live NiV-based reporter assays requires modest instrumentation, and circumvents the time and labor-intensive steps associated with cytopathic effect or viral antigen-based assays. These reporter NiVs will not only facilitate antiviral screening, but also the study of host cell components that influence the virus life cycle.

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