Characterization of three small molecule inhibitors of enterovirus 71 identified from screening of a library of natural products

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Enterovirus 71 (EV-A71) is a major cause of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD). Infection with EV-A71 is more often associated with neurological complications in children and is responsible for the majority of fatalities, but currently there is no approved antiviral therapy for treatment. Here, we identified auraptene, formononetin, and yangonin as effective inhibitors of EV-A71 infection in the low-micromolar range from screening of a natural product library. Among them, formononetin and yangonin selectively inhibited EV-A71 while auraptene could inhibit viruses within the enterovirus species A. Time of addition studies showed that all the three inhibitors inhibit both attachment and postattachment step of entry. We found mutations conferring the resistance to these inhibitors in the VP1 and VP4 capsid proteins and confirmed the target residues using a reverse genetic approach. Interestingly, auraptene- and formononetin-resistant viruses exhibit cross-resistance to other inhibitors while yangonin-resistant virus still remains susceptible to auraptene and formononetin. Moreover, auraptene and formononetin, but not yangonin protected EV-A71 against thermal inactivation, indicating a direct stabilizing effect of both compounds on virion capsid conformation. Finally, neither biochanin A (an analog of formononetin) nor DL-Kavain (an analog of yangonin) exhibited anti-EV-A71 activity, suggesting the structural elements required for anti-EV-A71 activity. Taken together, these compounds could become potential lead compounds for anti-EV-A71 drug development and also serve as tool compounds for studying virus entry.

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