Restriction of SARS-CoV-2 Replication by Targeting Programmed -1 Ribosomal Frameshifting In Vitro

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Yu SunJunjie U Guo


Translation of open reading frame 1b (ORF1b) in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) requires programmed -1 ribosomal frameshifting (-1 PRF) promoted by an RNA pseudoknot. The extent to which SARS-CoV-2 replication may be sensitive to changes in -1 PRF efficiency is currently unknown. Through an unbiased, reporter-based high-throughput compound screen, we identified merafloxacin, a fluoroquinolone antibacterial, as a -1 PRF inhibitor of SARS-CoV-2. Frameshift inhibition by merafloxacin is robust to mutations within the pseudoknot region and is similarly effective on -1 PRF of other beta coronaviruses. Importantly, frameshift inhibition by merafloxacin substantially impedes SARS-CoV-2 replication in Vero E6 cells, thereby providing the proof of principle of targeting -1 PRF as an effective antiviral strategy for SARS-CoV-2.

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