Inhibition of Cytosolic Phospholipase A2 Impairs an Early Step of Coronavirus Replication in Cell Culture. Academic Article uri icon


  • Coronavirus replication is associated with intracellular membrane rearrangements in infected cells, resulting in the formation of double-membrane vesicles (DMVs) and other membranous structures that are referred to as replicative organelles (ROs). The latter provide a structural scaffold for viral replication/transcription complexes (RTCs) and help to sequester RTC components from recognition by cellular factors involved in antiviral host responses. There is increasing evidence that plus-strand RNA (+RNA) virus replication, including RO formation and virion morphogenesis, affects cellular lipid metabolism and critically depends on enzymes involved in lipid synthesis and processing. Here, we investigated the role of cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2) in coronavirus replication using a low-molecular-weight nonpeptidic inhibitor, pyrrolidine-2 (Py-2). The inhibition of cPLA2 activity, which produces lysophospholipids (LPLs) by cleaving at the sn-2 position of phospholipids, had profound effects on viral RNA and protein accumulation in human coronavirus 229E-infected Huh-7 cells. Transmission electron microscopy revealed that DMV formation in infected cells was significantly reduced in the presence of the inhibitor. Furthermore, we found that (i) viral RTCs colocalized with LPL-containing membranes, (ii) cellular LPL concentrations were increased in coronavirus-infected cells, and (iii) this increase was diminished in the presence of the cPLA2 inhibitor Py-2. Py-2 also displayed antiviral activities against other viruses representing the Coronaviridae and Togaviridae families, while members of the Picornaviridae were not affected. Taken together, the study provides evidence that cPLA2 activity is critically involved in the replication of various +RNA virus families and may thus represent a candidate target for broad-spectrum antiviral drug development.IMPORTANCE Examples of highly conserved RNA virus proteins that qualify as drug targets for broad-spectrum antivirals remain scarce, resulting in increased efforts to identify and specifically inhibit cellular functions that are essential for the replication of RNA viruses belonging to different genera and families. The present study supports and extends previous conclusions that enzymes involved in cellular lipid metabolism may be tractable targets for broad-spectrum antivirals. We obtained evidence to show that a cellular phospholipase, cPLA2, which releases fatty acid from the sn-2 position of membrane-associated glycerophospholipids, is critically involved in coronavirus replication, most likely by producing lysophospholipids that are required to form the specialized membrane compartments in which viral RNA synthesis takes place. The importance of this enzyme in coronavirus replication and DMV formation is supported by several lines of evidence, including confocal and electron microscopy, viral replication, and lipidomics studies of coronavirus-infected cells treated with a highly specific cPLA2 inhibitor.

published proceedings

  • J Virol

altmetric score

  • 1.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Mller, C., Hardt, M., Schwudke, D., Neuman, B. W., Pleschka, S., & Ziebuhr, J.

citation count

  • 100

editor list (cited editors)

  • Gallagher, T.

publication date

  • February 2018