Inhibition, Escape, and Attenuated Growth of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Treated with Antisense Morpholino Oligomers†
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The recently emerged severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is a potent pathogen of humans and is capable of rapid global spread. Peptide-conjugated antisense morpholino oligomers (P-PMO) were designed to bind by base pairing to specific sequences in the SARS-CoV (Tor2 strain) genome. The P-PMO were tested for their capacity to inhibit production of infectious virus as well as to probe the function of conserved viral RNA motifs and secondary structures. Several virus-targeted P-PMO and a random-sequence control P-PMO showed low inhibitory activity against SARS coronavirus. Certain other virus-targeted P-PMO reduced virus-induced cytopathology and cell-to-cell spread as a consequence of decreasing viral amplification. Active P-PMO were effective when administered at any time prior to peak viral synthesis and exerted sustained antiviral effects while present in culture medium. P-PMO showed low nonspecific inhibitory activity against translation of nontargeted RNA or growth of the arenavirus lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. Two P-PMO targeting the viral transcription-regulatory sequence (TRS) region in the 5' untranslated region were the most effective inhibitors tested. After several viral passages in the presence of a TRS-targeted P-PMO, partially drug-resistant SARS-CoV mutants arose which contained three contiguous base point mutations at the binding site of a TRS-targeted P-PMO. Those partially resistant viruses grew more slowly and formed smaller plaques than wild-type SARS-CoV. These results suggest PMO compounds have powerful therapeutic and investigative potential toward coronavirus infection.
author list (cited authors)
Neuman, B. W., Stein, D. A., Kroeker, A. D., Churchill, M. J., Kim, A. M., Kuhn, P., ... Buchmeier, M. J.