Small-molecule fusion inhibitors bind the pH-sensing stable signal peptide-GP2 subunit interface of the lassa virus envelope glycoprotein

Sundaresh Shankar, Landon R. Whitby, Hedi E. Casquilho-Gray, Joanne York, Dale L. Boger, Jack H. Nunberga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Arenavirus species are responsible for severe life-threatening hemorrhagic fevers in western Africa and South America. Without effective antiviral therapies or vaccines, these viruses pose serious public health and biodefense concerns. Chemically distinct small-molecule inhibitors of arenavirus entry have recently been identified and shown to act on the arenavirus envelope glycoprotein (GPC) to prevent membrane fusion. In the tripartite GPC complex, pH-dependent membrane fusion is triggered through a poorly understood interaction between the stable signal peptide (SSP) and the transmembrane fusion subunit GP2, and our genetic studies have suggested that these small-molecule inhibitors act at this interface to antagonize fusion activation. Here, we have designed and synthesized photoaffinity derivatives of the 4-acyl-1,6-dialkylpiperazin-2-one class of fusion inhibitors and demonstrate specific labeling of both the SSP and GP2 subunits in a native-like Lassa virus (LASV) GPC trimer expressed in insect cells. Photoaddition is competed by the parental inhibitor and other chemically distinct compounds active against LASV, but not those specific to New World arenaviruses. These studies provide direct physical evidence that these inhibitors bind at the SSP-GP2 interface. We also find that GPC containing the uncleaved GP1-GP2 precursor is not susceptible to photo-cross-linking, suggesting that proteolytic maturation is accompanied by conformational changes at this site. Detailed mapping of residues modified by the photoaffinity adducts may provide insight to guide the further development of these promising lead compounds as potential therapeutic agents to treat Lassa hemorrhagic fever.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6799-6807
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2016


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