A small molecule screen in yeast identifies inhibitors targeting protein–protein interactions within the vaccinia virus replication complex
Richefeu, Céline Contesto
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Genetic and biochemical data have identified at least four viral proteins essential for vaccinia virus (VACV) DNA synthesis: the DNA polymerase E9, its processivity factor (the heterodimer A20/D4) and the primase/helicase D5. These proteins are part of the VACV replication complex in which A20 is a central subunit interacting with E9, D4 and D5. We hypothesised that molecules able to modulate protein–protein interactions within the replication complex may represent a new class of compounds with anti-orthopoxvirus activities. In this study, we adapted a forward duplex yeast two-hybrid assay to screen more than 27,000 molecules in order to identify inhibitors of A20/D4 and/or A20/D5 interactions. We identified two molecules that specifically inhibited both interactions in yeast. Interestingly, we observed that these compounds displayed a similar antiviral activity to cidofovir (CDV) against VACV in cell culture. We further showed that these molecules were able to inhibit the replication of another orthopoxvirus (i.e. cowpox virus), but not the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), an unrelated DNA virus. We also demonstrated that the antiviral activity of both compounds correlated with an inhibition of VACV DNA synthesis. Hence, these molecules may represent a starting point for the development of new anti-orthopoxvirus drugs.