The clinically approved MEK inhibitor Trametinib efficiently blocks influenza A virus propagation and cytokine expression


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Abstract

Influenza A virus (IAV) infections are still a major global threat for humans, especially for the risk groups of young children and the elderly. Annual epidemics and sporadically occurring pandemics highlight the necessity of effective antivirals that can limit viral replication. The currently licensed antiviral drugs target viral factors and are prone to provoke viral resistance. In infected host cells IAV induces various cellular signaling cascades. The Raf/MEK/ERK signaling cascade is indispensable for IAV replication because it triggers the nuclear export of newly assembled viral ribonucleoproteins (vRNPs). Inhibition of this cascade limits viral replication. Thus, next to their potential in anti-tumor therapy, inhibitors targeting the Raf/MEK/ERK signaling cascade came into focus as potential antiviral drugs. The first licensed MEK inhibitor Trametinib (GSK-1120212) is used for treatment of malignant melanoma, being highly selective and having a promising side effect profile. Since Trametinib may be qualified for a repurposing approach that would significantly shorten development time for an anti-flu use, we evaluated its antiviral potency and mode of action. In this study, we describe that Trametinib efficiently blocks replication of different IAV subtypes in vitro and in vivo. The broad antiviral activity against various IAV strains was due to its ability to interfere with export of progeny vRNPs from the nucleus. The compound also limited hyper-expression of several cytokines. Thus, we show for the first time that a clinically approved MEK inhibitor acts as a potent anti-influenza agent.HighlightsRepurposing of MEK inhibitor Trametinib against influenza A viruses.Broad antiviral activity in vitro.Mode of action via nuclear retention of progeny viral ribonucleoproteins.Simultaneous effect on cytokine expression.Trametinib exhibits antiviral activity in vivo in a mouse model improving health status and survival.

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