Genistein inhibits African swine fever virus replicationin vitroby disrupting viral DNA synthesis

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African swine fever virus (ASFV) is the causal agent of a highly-contagious and fatal disease of domestic pigs, leading to serious socio-economic consequences in affected countries. Once, neither an anti-viral drug nor an effective vaccines are available, studies on new anti-ASFV molecules are urgently need. Recently, it has been shown that ASFV type II topoisomerase (ASFV-topo II) is inhibited by several fluoroquinolones (bacterial DNA topoisomerase inhibitors), raising the idea that this viral enzyme can be a potential target for drug development against ASFV. Here, we report that genistein hampers ASFV infection at non-cytotoxic concentrations in Vero cells and porcine macrophages. Interestingly, the antiviral activity of this isoflavone, previously described as a topo II poison in eukaryotes, is maximal when it is added to cells at middle-phase of infection (8 hpi), disrupting viral DNA replication, blocking the transcription of late viral genes as well as the synthesis of late viral proteins, reducing viral progeny. Further, the single cell electrophoresis analysis revealed the presence of fragmented ASFV genomes in cells exposed to genistein, suggesting that this molecule also acts as an ASFV-topo II poison and not as a reversible inhibitor. No antiviral effects were detected when genistein was added before or at entry phase of ASFV infection. Molecular docking studies demonstrated that genistein may interact with four residues of the ATP-binding site of ASFV-topo II (Asn-144, Val-146, Gly-147 and Leu-148), showing more binding affinity (−4.62kcal/mol) than ATP4− (−3.02kcal/mol), emphasizing the idea that this viral enzyme has an essential role during viral genome replication and can be a good target for drug development against ASFV.HIGHLIGHTSGenistein shows potent anti-ASFV activity at non-cytotoxic concentrations.Genistein disrupts viral genome replication and viral protein synthesis.It acts as an ASFV-topo II poison promoting irreversible viral genome breaks.Docking studies revealed that genistein interacts with the ATP-binding site of ASFV-topo II with more affinity than ATP4−.

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