The HBV core protein represents an attractive target for new antiviral therapies due to its multiple functions within the viral life-cycle. Here, we report the antiviral activity of the capsid assembly modulator (CAM) BAY41-4109 and two nucleos(t)ide analogues (NAs) on a diverse panel of 54 HBV clinical isolates from genotype (GT) A-H and assessed the impact of core amino acid (aa) substitutions using site-directed mutants (SDMs).
The median EC50 values of BAY41-4109 across genotypes ranged from 26 nM in GT G to 215 nM in GT F irrespective of the presence of NA resistance mutations compared to 43 nM for the GT D reference construct. Combined analyses of clinical isolates and SDMs identified aa changes at positions 29, 33 and 118 led to reduced antiviral activity of BAY41-4109 with fold changes in EC50 values of 6, 46, and 9 for D29G, T33N, and Y118F, respectively. These aa substitutions are located within the CAM binding pocket, and are expected to have an effect on CAM binding based on structural modeling. Importantly aa variations at these positions were rarely (<0.3%) observed as naturally occurring in public sequence databases. NA's remained fully active against these variants.
Our study demonstrated that BAY41-4109 generally remained fully active across GT A-H clinical isolates. In addition, core aa substitutions within the CAM-binding pocket replicated in vitro and variants at positions 29, 33, and 118 were identified to reduce antiviral activity.