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Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of Virology






M. S. Diamond


American Society for Microbiology

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Although a highly effective vaccine is available, the number of yellow fever cases has increased over the past 2 decades, which highlights the pressing need for antiviral therapeutics. In a high-throughput screening campaign, we identified an acetic acid benzodiazepine (BDAA) compound which potently inhibits yellow fever virus (YFV). Interestingly, while treatment of YFV-infected cultures with 2 MBDAA reduced the virion production by greater than 2 logs, the compound was not active against 21 other viruses from 14 different viral families. Selection and genetic analysis of drug-resistant viruses revealed that replacement of the proline at amino acid 219 (P219) of the nonstructural protein 4B (NS4B) with serine, threonine, or alanine conferred YFV with resistance to BDAA without apparent loss of replication fitness in cultured mammalian cells. However, replacement of P219 with glycine conferred BDAA resistance with significant loss of replication ability. Bioinformatics analysis predicts that the P219 amino acid is localized at the endoplasmic reticulum lumen side of the fifth putative transmembrane domain of NS4B, and the mutation may render the viral protein incapable of interacting with BDAA. Our studies thus revealed an important role and the structural basis for the NS4B protein in supporting YFV replication. Moreover, in YFV-infected hamsters, oral administration of BDAA protected 90% of the animals from death, significantly reduced viral load by greater than 2 logs, and attenuated virus infection-induced liver injury and body weight loss. The encouraging preclinical results thus warrant further development of BDAA or its derivatives as antiviral agents to treat yellow fever.

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